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As the Trump administration moves forward with its final rule allowing small businesses and self-employed workers ti get coverage through association health plans, fraud experts are concerned that the “unauthorized or bogus” plans that flooded the marketplace in the early 2000s will crop up again. Meanwhile, New York and Massachusetts will sue the federal government over the rule.
Most Republican lawmakers don’t want to touch the issue with a ten-foot pool this close to the midterm elections, but conservative groups are still pushing for a change. The proposal, which focuses on giving control to the states, was drafted by groups led by the Heritage Foundation, the Galen Institute and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.).
The Trump administration announced the finalized rule yesterday that would give small businesses access to insurance options like those available to large companies and let them skirt some of the health law’s requirements. While President Donald Trump said the rule will save people “massive amounts of money,” Democrats and others in the health industry say the insurance plans are “junk” and they will further destabilize the marketplace.
Maine voters approved the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program last year and two courts have recently ordered the plan enacted. But Gov. Paul LePage (R) continues to say he won’t do it unless lawmakers come up with a way to cover the cost.
“We’re asking the Administration to reverse their decision and instead work with Congress and Governors on bipartisan solutions to protect coverage and lower health care costs for all Americans, all while protecting those with preexisting conditions,” nine governors say in their letter to the Trump administration.
The plans, which let small businesses and self-employed individuals band together for more affordable coverage, won’t have to meet all the strict regulations laid out by the Affordable Care Act. The Trump administration says they will help bring down premiums, but experts warn that they’ll siphon healthy people away from the exchanges.
Even as lawmakers and government officials start to embrace Medicaid, advocates in states are building momentum with a push to get expansion on ballots. Medicaid news comes out of Michigan, Tennessee, Iowa, Ohio, Massachusetts and Texas, as well.
Hospitals, doctors, medical schools, patient-advocacy groups and insurers have filed friends of the court briefs arguing that a ruling in favor of this latest challenge to the health law’s constitutionality would “have a devastating impact on doctors, patients, and the American health care system as a whole.”
The panel said the government doesn’t have to pay insurers the money because Congress had taken action — after the health law’s passage — requiring the program to be budget neutral year after year. The program in contention was aimed at enticing insurers into the market with promises of covering their financial risks.
If the pre-existing conditions provision of the health law is stripped away by an upcoming court case — which the Justice Department announced last week it will not defend — it won’t just affect people who buy their health care on the health law marketplace. Meanwhile, a group of Democratic lawmakers are demanding more information on the administration’s decision, and candidates plan on using it as a talking point in the upcoming midterms.
Democratic lawmakers questioned HHS Secretary Alex Azar about why the Trump administration backed away from defending the health law’s provision that protects people with pre-existing conditions. Azar said the decision was driven by constitutional considerations not policy ones. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says that “everybody” he knows in the Senate wants to keep pre-existing conditions protections in place.
The Justice Department’s announcement that it won’t defend the health law provision that protects people with pre-existing conditions hands a potentially powerful political weapon to the Democrats ahead of the midterm elections. Meanwhile, media outlets take a look at how the decision will affect the marketplace, and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra vows to redouble his energies defending the law.
The issue is divisive within the party and also leaves progressive Democrats open for attack from Republicans claiming the candidates are supporting socialized medicine. Democrats are trying to hone their message to signal support for more universal health care while also avoiding the contentious phrase. Meanwhile, health care is found to be top of mind for voters as the midterm elections creep closer.
The North Carolina Farm Bureau has looked to Iowa and Tennessee organizations to model their requests to skirt health law regulations. The bureau’s pitch to state lawmakers comes after the Trump administration in January proposed a rule to allow more small businesses and self-employed workers to band together to buy insurance through association health plans. Meanwhile, although there are some bright spots, it looks like premiums will skyrocket again next year.
The provisions that should be “struck down” include protecting people with pre-existing medical conditions from being charged more or being denied coverage, according to the Justice Department. Now, it will be up to several Democratic state attorneys general to defend the law, and they have already received permission to intervene in the case.
The state is just the latest to move toward adding more restrictions to its program, something governors and legislatures are jumping on since CMS signaled its willingness to grant waivers. Medicaid news comes out of Virginia, Texas, Florida and Mississippi, as well.
The race for California governor was narrowed down to Democrat Gavin Newsom and Republican John Cox. The outcome of the race could both shape the fate of the Affordable Care Act in the state and influence whether Republicans in Washington take another shot at dismantling the landmark law. “For the Affordable Care Act, California is a bellwether state,” said David Blumenthal, president of the Commonwealth Fund.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar, while testifying to Congress Wednesday, defended the Trump administration from claims it was trying to sabotage the health law. Azar also said that President Donald Trump is taking steps to try to make coverage more affordable, such as extending short-term policies and allowing association health plans. The secretary spoke about Medicare, as well.
It comes down to the “cascade phenomenon,” insurers say. Even if a smaller company doesn’t expect to lose members, it will still feel the pain from the changes in the industry because of how the health law has tied the marketplace together with the permanent risk adjustment program.
Gavin Newsom, the Democratic lieutenant governor and a proponent of a single-payer health care system, won a spot in the general race for governor last night. He’ll face Republican businessman John Cox in the fall.