Monthly Archives

July 2018

Why Coloradans’ Insurance Is Getting Even More Expensive: The Trump Administration and Washington Republicans Keep Sabotaging Health Care

Washington, D.C. – As preliminary Colorado rate filings for 2019 individual-market health insurance indicated a potential double-digit average premium increase due to Washington Republicans’ repeal-and-sabotage agenda, Protect Our Care executive director Brad Woodhouse released the following statement:

“For the past year and a half, President Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have engaged in a deliberate, aggressive campaign to undermine health care and now families in Colorado are being asked to pay the price. While insurance companies make huge profits and enjoy record tax breaks from Republicans, they are planning to charge working families even more. Until we stop Republicans’ war on health care, health care experts predict that rates will keep rising by double digits. Washington Republicans should start working on bipartisan solutions to make coverage more affordable, instead of helping their friends in the insurance industry make another buck on the backs of hardworking Coloradans.”

From the Insurance Commissioner:

Colorado Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway: “Decisions At The Federal Level Continue to Make Life Interesting.” “In past years, challenges continue. Just last week, the Trump administration decided to freeze a key ACA program designed to discourage insurers from favoring healthy people over less healthy ones. ‘Decisions at the federal level continue to make life interesting,’ said Commissioner Conway. ‘But as we have in the past, we will find a solution to this most recent announcement. To that end, just this morning, I informed the insurance carriers that we will require that they account for their respective risk adjustment receivables or payables as they are reflected in the July 9, 2018 federal report. I will take any subsequent steps that are necessary to protect Coloradans and to maintain market stability.’” [Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, 7/13/18]

Office Of Colorado Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway: Individual Market Premiums Increasing An Average Of 5.94 Percent, Increasing As High As 12.3 Percent. “For 2019 individual plans, the average premium increase request is 5.94 percent across all companies and metal levels. In the small group market, the average premium increase request is 7.15 percent. Remember, these are averages across all plans from all companies, across all areas of the state where a company offers plans, for all ages. These averages are not representative of how one individual’s premium could change. Looking closer, the requested average premium increase for individual gold plans is 6.85 percent, and is 12.3 percent for silver plans. For bronze plans, the requested average premium increase is 0.9 percent.” [Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, 7/13/18]

Why Coloradans’ Insurance Is Getting Even More Expensive: The Trump Administration and Washington Republicans Keep Sabotaging Health Care

While spending most of last year trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and waging a war on our health care, President Trump and Republicans in Congress have also used their control of Washington to actively undermine the Health Insurance Marketplaces every chance they get – leading insurance companies to raise premiums for 2018 and 2019 and, in some cases, forcing them out of the individual market altogether. Washington Republicans’ goal is simple: sabotage and undermine the Affordable Care Act, then blame everyone but themselves for the consequences of their actions. President Trump keeps rooting for disaster, saying that “The best thing we can do…is let Obamacare explode” and “Let it be a disaster because we can blame that on the Democrats.

Now, initial rate filings in Colorado forecast double-digit rate hikes again this fall because of Republican sabotage.

Republicans never ended their war on our health care. After Congress failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Trump Administration is aggressively sabotaging our health care system and refusing to work to make coverage better and more affordable.

  • Experts from AARP, the Congressional Budget Office, and a wide range of other nonpartisan organizations agree that Republican actions are forcing up health care costs.
  • Republicans in Congress are supporting the Administration’s many actions to undermine health care, despite widespread opposition from patient and disease groups, doctors, nurses, hospitals, plus health care and consumer advocates.
  • The Trump Administration officials keep rewriting the rules to let big insurance companies cover fewer and fewer services while charging people more and more. The sabotage doesn’t stop there: last year the Administration fired many of the community assisters who help people enroll in health care; this year they are planning more enrollment cuts, making it even harder to sign up for coverage.
  • And now, Republicans are encouraging insurance companies to sell more junk plans that don’t have to cover basic care like hospitalization and prescription drugs, and that are allowed to charge people with pre-existing conditions more or even deny them coverage altogether. In Colorado, no short-term plans available have to cover maternity care, and only 0 percent of plans cover prescription drugs.

This could have been avoided: if Republicans had stopped sabotaging health care, American families wouldn’t be facing another huge increase this fall.

  • Even the Trump Administration has admitted that the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplaces had been stabilizing prior to them coming into office.
  • The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office had predicted only modest rate increases if Republicans hadn’t sabotaged the markets.
  • Even Senate Republicans admitted this fall’s upcoming rate hikes were “avoidable,” but then they torched bipartisan stabilization talks at the last minute, prioritizing partisan politics over their last opportunity to help American families afford health care next year.

The Trump Administration’s sabotage will punish Americans by jacking up premiums again, compounding the damage done last year, when Republican sabotage pushed rates up by a national average of 37%.

  • The Republican tax bill’s repeal of a key Affordable Care Act provision and the Trump Administration’s junk plan proposal will increase individual market premiums in Colorado by an average 18.3 percent this fall, according to a recent Urban Institute study.
  • This sabotage-driven rate hike will make the damage Republicans inflicted last year through repeal attempts and sabotage even worse.
  • Higher premiums will mean fewer working families can afford coverage: during the first year of the Trump Administration, millions more Americans joined the ranks of the uninsured – the highest increase since Gallup started tracking the uninsured rate.

Despite Republican sabotage, the Affordable Care Act has improved Coloradans’ care.

  • 161,764 Coloradans signed up for Marketplace coverage this year.
  • Thanks to the Marketplace and Medicaid expansion, Colorado’s uninsured rate fell by 3.1 percent between 2013 and 2016 as Coloradans have gained access to affordable coverage.
  • Before today’s announcement, the Urban Institute predicted that Colorado premiums for 2019 could rise 18.3 percent more because of the Trump Administration’s junk plan proposal and the Republican tax bill’s repeal of a key Affordable Care Act coverage incentive.
  • Even despite sabotage, Affordable Care Act subsidies help keep coverage affordable for 70 percent of Colorado Marketplace consumers, whose average 2018 premium is $143 per month.
  • But because of the Republican sabotage agenda, many middle-income Coloradans could pay hundreds or thousands of dollars more than they would have otherwise.

Coloradans won’t forget that Republicans and the Trump Administration keep forcing up health care costs to score political points.

 

  • Health care costs are a top issue in nearly every major issue-ranked poll in 2018.
  • Voters overwhelmingly trust Democrats over Republicans on health care costs.
  • In poll after poll, voters resoundingly reject President Trump and Congressional Republicans’ repeal-and-sabotage campaign against the Affordable Care Act.

 

 

KEY QUOTES

America’s Health Insurance Plans: Administration’s DOJ Decision Would “Cause Rates To Go Even Higher For Older Americans And Sicker Patients.” “Zeroing out the individual mandate penalty should not result in striking important consumer protections, such as guaranteed issue and community rating rules that help those with pre-existing conditions. Removing those provisions will result in renewed uncertainty in the individual market, create a patchwork of requirements in the states, cause rates to go even higher for older Americans and sicker patients, and make it challenging to introduce products and rates for 2019. Instead, we should focus on advancing proven solutions that ensure affordability for all consumers. [AHIP, 6/8/18]

Associated Press: Administration’s Decision Could “Nudge Premiums Even Higher.” “The Trump administration’s decision to stop defending in court the Obama health law’s popular protections for consumers with pre-existing conditions could prove risky for Republicans in the midterm elections — and nudge premiums even higher.” [CNBC, 6/8/18]

Timothy Jost, Washington & Lee University Law Professor: Administration’s Decision Could Leave Millions Of Americans Facing “Denial Of Coverage Or Higher Premiums.” “Yesterday, the Trump administration’s Department of Justice dropped a bombshell in a rural Texas federal courthouse. The administration stated in a court filing (and also in letters to Congressional leaders) that it would not defend three key provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). If the judge in the case agrees, millions of Americans with preexisting conditions could face denial of coverage or higher premiums.” [Commonwealth Fund, 6/8/18]

Ceci Connolly, Alliance Of Community Health Plans: Administration’s Decision Decision Could Spark Fresh Market Instability. “Ceci Connolly, president of the Alliance of Community Health Plans, called the legal position ‘troubling’ and warned it could spark fresh market instability. ‘At the very least it adds uncertainty at exactly the moment when plans are trying to set rates for next year,’ Connolly said in a statement. ‘At the worst, it could strip away guaranteed coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. We don’t want to return to the days when people who needed the care the most could be turned away because of their health status.’” [Modern Healthcare, 6/8/18]

Fortune: If Administration’s Decision Is Implemented, “There’s A Strong Change Insurers Would Begin Charging Sicker People Significantly More.” “To date, many low-income people have been shielded from those increases since federal subsidies to help pay premiums rise in tandem with the spikes. Middle-class families who don’t qualify for the subsidies are left either swallowing the higher premiums or forgoing coverage. If the protections for people with pre-existing conditions are ultimately shot down, there’s a strong chance insurers would begin charging sicker people significantly more for their coverage while younger and healthier Americans would see lower prices.” [Fortune, 6/11/18]

Former HHS Secretary Tom Price: GOP Actions Responsible For Premium Increases. “President Trump’s former top health official on Tuesday said the Republican tax law would raise the cost of health insurance for some Americans because it repealed a core provision of the Affordable Care Act. Tom Price, Trump’s first secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said people buying insurance on government-run marketplaces will face higher prices because the tax law repealed the ACA’s individual mandate. The mandate had forced most Americans to have health coverage or face a financial penalty. ‘There are many, and I’m one of them, who believes that that actually will harm the pool in the exchange market, because you’ll likely have individuals who are younger and healthier not participating in that market, and consequently that drives up the cost for other folks within that market,’ Price said at the World Health Care Conference in Washington.” [Washington Post, 5/1/18]

America’s Health Insurance Plans: Republican Sabotage Will “Drive Up The Rate Of Premium Increases.” “Policies that disproportionately draw healthy consumers away from the individual market, like expanding access to short-term plans, will likely have an even more devastating effect on affordability, choice and competition. This will further result in adverse selection, drive up the rate of premium increases, and exacerbate affordability issues for many other people.” [America’s Health Insurance Plans Letter to HHS, 4/20/18]

Cynthia Cox, Kaiser Family Foundation: “In The Absence Of Efforts To Undermine The Market, We Would Be Seeing A Period Of Relatively Small Premium Increases.” “‘In the absence of efforts to undermine the market, we would be seeing a period of relatively small premium increases, driven mostly by the underlying growth in health care costs,’ said Cynthia Cox, the lead author of the Kaiser Family Foundation report. ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re in for another year of double-digit premium increases. And if that does happen, it would be in large part due to policy changes that are happening.’” [Huffington Post, 5/18/18]

Kris Haltmeyer, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Vice President: “With The Repeal Of The Individual Mandate And The Failure Of Congress To Enact Stabilization Legislation, We Are Expecting Premiums To Go Up Substantially.” Kris Haltmeyer, a vice president at the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, told reporters that the premium increases were in part due to the repeal of ObamaCare’s individual mandate in the Republican tax reform bill in December. He also cited lawmakers’ failure to pass a bill aimed at shoring up the market, which fell apart earlier this year amid a partisan dispute over abortion restrictions. ‘With the repeal of the individual mandate and the failure of Congress to enact stabilization legislation, we are expecting premiums to go up substantially,’ Haltmeyer said. He estimated that average premium increases nationwide will be in the ‘low teens,’ but that there will be major variation across areas, ranging from the low single digits to up to 70 or 80 percent.” [The Hill, 5/23]

New York Times Editorial Board: “The Administration’s Health Care Sabotage Efforts Have Already Had A Big Impact”: A 30-Percent Premium Increase. “The administration’s health care sabotage efforts have already had a big impact — but not the kind of impact officials promised. Insurance companies raised average premiums for 2018 A.C.A. policies by 30 percent. This has mostly hurt middle-class families who have to pay full freight for health insurance because they make too much money to qualify for subsidies and don’t get coverage through their employer. Few experts were surprised when the Commonwealth Fund found that the percentage of American adults who did not have health insurance jumped to 15.5 percent this year, from 12.7 percent before Mr. Trump took office. Experts say those numbers could climb higher still when the penalty for not having insurance goes away next year.” [NYT, 5/3/18]

Commonwealth Fund: Rollback Of Health Insurance Gains Spurred By “Actions By The Current Administration.” “The marked gains in health insurance coverage made since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010 are beginning to reverse, according to new findings from the latest Commonwealth Fund ACA Tracking Survey. The coverage declines are likely the result of two major factors: 1) lack of federal legislative actions to improve specific weaknesses in the ACA and 2) actions by the current administration that have exacerbated those weaknesses. These include the administration’s deep cuts in advertising and outreach during the marketplace open-enrollment periods, a shorter open enrollment period, and other actions that collectively may have left people with a general sense of confusion about the status of the law. Signs point to further erosion of insurance coverage in 2019: the repeal of the individual mandate penalty included in the 2017 tax law, recent actions to increase the availability of insurance policies that don’t comply with ACA minimum benefit standards, and support for Medicaid work requirements.” [Commonwealth Fund, 5/1/18]

Center For American Progress: “Combined, The Recent Tax Law’s Repeal Of The Individual Mandate And The Administration’s Short-Term Plan Rule Will Undermine The Individual Insurance Market And Increase Premiums For ACA-Compliant Coverage.” “Last year, as part of the tax law, Congress eliminated the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate penalty. Given the mandate’s important role in encouraging healthier people to enroll in the marketplaces, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that, in 2019, this will increase average premiums in the individual market by 10 percent. Furthermore, in February 2018, the Trump administration proposed a rule to expand short-term health insurance plans… Along with the repeal of the individual mandate penalty, this expansion of short-term plans will drive up average premiums for ACA-compliant coverage in the individual market. Recent preliminary rate filings in Virginia demonstrate that these actions are contributing to significant premium increases for marketplace coverage in 2019. In fact, some Virginia insurers specifically cited the individual mandate repeal and short-term plan rule as major factors in their rate filings… Combined, the recent tax law’s repeal of the individual mandate and the administration’s short-term plan rule will undermine the individual insurance market and increase premiums for ACA-compliant coverage.” [CAP, 5/18]

New York Times: “Rather Than Trying To Eliminate Obamacare In One Fell Swoop, [Republicans Are] Trying To Undermine It With Multiple Acts Of Sabotage – While Hoping Voters Won’t Realize Who’s Responsible For Rising Premiums And Falling Coverage.” “At the beginning of 2017, Republicans promised to release the kraken on Obamacare — to destroy the program with one devastating blow. But a funny thing happened: Voters realized that repealing the Affordable Care Act would mean taking health insurance away from tens of millions of Americans. They didn’t like that prospect — and enough Republicans balked at the backlash that Obamacare repeal fizzled. But Republicans still hate the idea of helping Americans get health care. So instead of releasing the kraken, they’ve brought on the termites. Rather than trying to eliminate Obamacare in one fell swoop, they’re trying to undermine it with multiple acts of sabotage — while hoping voters won’t realize who’s responsible for rising premiums and falling coverage.” [NYT, 5/8/18]

Washington Post Editorial Board: “The Numbers Suggest That [The ACA’s] Critics’ Sabotage Efforts Are To Blame. “The effects of the president’s underinformed instincts, enabled by the ideologues in his administration, are beginning to show up in some of the numbers, representing real pain that Americans are suffering for Mr. Trump’s deficient leadership… Obamacare critics regularly describe all problems as the inevitable result of a poorly designed law. But the numbers suggest that the critics’ sabotage efforts are to blame. After impressive declines during President Barack Obama’s second term, the fund found that the uninsured rate increased in both of the years Mr. Trump has been in office. During the campaign, Mr. Trump regularly complained that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) left too many Americans uncovered. The result of nearly a year and a half of Mr. Trump’s leadership is 4 million people added to that group.” [Washington Post, 5/8/18]

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey: 2018 Premium Increase Was Due To Federal Policy.Three factors connected to federal policy decisions are responsible for 14.7% of the 24.3% total average individual premium increase: Weakened enforcement of the Individual Mandate…Elimination of federal funding for Cost Sharing Reductions (CSR), [and] 2018 reinstatement of Health Insurance Tax…Were it not for the three factors within the control of the Federal Government, Horizon BCBSNJ’s individual premiums would have an average increase of 9.6%.” [Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, 10/17/17]

CEO of CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield: Things Are “Materially Worse” Under Trump. “Continuing actions on the part of the administration to systematically undermine the market and make it almost impossible to carry out the mission…If continued efforts at the federal level undermine the marketplaces, I would think the board would have to examine what they would want — that’s very much on their mind.” [Washington Post, 5/1/18]

Lindsey Graham: Republicans “Own The Outcome” On Health Care. “Sen. Graham told Breitbart News, ‘In October, premiums are going up. Obamacare cannot be fixed. It’s going to continue to collapse, and then, we own the outcome. By repealing the individual mandate, which is a step forward in the eyes of the public, we own the issue. We have a responsibility to do something about the collapsing Obamacare system. I believe that we’re going to get blamed more than Democrats because we stopped trying to repeal Obamacare, and to suggest that we don’t own it is just simply politically naive.’ Graham continued, ‘It can hurt us in 2018. It can hurt by our base feeling like we betrayed them. It can hurt us from people suffering from Obamacare, like we don’t have a solution. It will energize Democrats. It can undercut everything we did on the tax cut side.’” [Breitbart, 2/6/18]

Rep. Charlie Dent: “We, The Republican Party…Own” Health Care Now. “Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) argued Friday that President Trump was ‘ill-advised’ to end key ObamaCare payments, warning that the GOP now ‘owns’ whatever happens to ObamaCare. ‘I think the president is ill-advised to take this course of action because … we, the Republican Party, will own this,’ Dent, a key House moderate who is retiring from Congress at the end of his term, said on CNN. Asked about Trump’s previous comments blaming problems with ObamaCare on former President Barack Obama, Dent pointed out that Republicans currently control the White House and have majorities in both chambers of Congress. ‘Barack Obama is a former president. President Trump is the president and he’s a Republican, and we control the Congress,’ Dent said. ‘So we own the system now. We’re going to have to figure out a way to stabilize this situation … This is on us.’” [The Hill, 10/13/17]

Washington Post: “The Pottery Barn Rule Comes To Mind: You Break It, You Own It.” “This is not ‘letting’ Obamacare fail. Many nonpartisan experts believe that these active measures are likely to undermine the pillars of the 2010 law and hasten the collapse of the marketplaces. The Pottery Barn rule comes to mind: You break it, you own it. Yes, the plate you just shattered had some cracks in it. But if you dropped it on the ground, the store is going to blame you.” [Washington Post, 10/13/17]

Washington Post: “Trump’s Not Going To Be Able To Avoid Blame For Kneecapping Obamacare.” [Washington Post, 10/13/17]

“After Months Of Pinning The Blame For Obamacare’s Shortcomings On Democrats And Watching His Own Party Fail To Act, President Donald Trump Just Took Ownership Of A Struggle That’s Consumed Republicans For Seven Years.” “After months of pinning the blame for Obamacare’s shortcomings on Democrats and watching his own party fail to act, President Donald Trump just took ownership of a struggle that’s consumed Republicans for seven years. Trump’s decision late Thursday to end government subsidies to insurers to help lower-income Americans afford to use their coverage under the Affordable Care Act was the most drastic step he’s taken to undermine his predecessor’s signature achievement. It also lobbed a live bomb into the laps of Republicans lawmakers 13 months before congressional elections after he publicly berated the party’s Senate leadership for being unable to keep a longstanding promise to repeal the law.” [Bloomberg, 10/13/17]

The American People Agree: President Trump And Congressional Republicans Are Playing Politics With People’s Health Care.  A poll conducted last September found that 61 percent of voters believed President Trump was “trying to make the Affordable Care Act fail,” and 64 percent of voters said Trump is “playing politics with people’s health care.” The poll also found that the American people seriously disapprove of how Republicans in Congress are treating health care: 80 percent of voters disapprove while only 20 percent approve. [Hart Research, 9/5/17]

Lamar Alexander Blames Democrats for Premiums, Ignoring Insurance Company Which Blames Republican Sabotage

Last night, Sen. Lamar Alexander once again lied about the rising premiums in his state, attempting to blame Democrats for problems caused by his party in Washington.

What did Sen. Alexander say? Per the Chattanooga Times Free Press, he blamed Democrats for Tennessee’s premiums:

“Since Democrats in Congress have elevated Obamacare to the 67th book of the Bible, and have blocked even minor changes to the law that could have lowered rates by up to 40 percent, it is up to the states and the administration to continue to help lower premiums.’”

What did BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee say? That they were raising people’s premiums by $649.28 next year specifically because of the Trump Administration’s decision to freeze risk adjustment payments:

Sen. Alexander: stop denying that GOP sabotage is costing Tennesseans.

This Week in the War on Health Care

Another week, another non-stop assault on Americans’ health care by Republicans. Here’s what happened this week in the war on health care:

BRETT KAVANAUGH IS THE LATEST THREAT TO AMERICANS’ HEALTH CARE

President Trump had at least two litmus tests for Judge Kavanaugh to become his nominee for the Supreme Court: 1) overturn Roe v. Wade and overturn America’s health care, and 2) by gutting protections for those with pre-existing conditions. Such a radical shift on these issues would be disastrous for women’s health and would put the health care of 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions at risk.

Kavanaugh also represents a drastic threat to Medicaid, which covers one in five Americans. How?

  • Kavanaugh could allow states to restrict enrollment through onerous work requirements;
  • Kavanaugh could prevent Medicaid from covering health care at Planned Parenthood;
  • Kavanaugh he could deny individuals and providers the right to sue when a state’s Medicaid program isn’t complying with the law, which experts suggest will enable states to decimate their medicaid programs, and
  • Kavanaugh could end Medicaid expansion.

And if anyone thinks this isn’t the case, they need only look to Sen. Orrin Hatch.

ADVOCATES MOUNT DEFENSE FOR HEALTH CARE AND WORK TO STOP KAVANAUGH

Across the country, however, health care advocates have geared up in opposition to the nomination, urging their senators to reject Judge Kavanaugh. Among the highlights:

  • In Alaska, Protect Our Care was joined by health care advocates, Alaska Native leaders, and former Alaska Superior Court Judge John Reese to urge Sen. Lisa Murkowski to do what is best for Alaska and reject a justice who won’t protect Alaskans’ care;
  • In Maine, Protect Our Care was joined by the Maine Women’s Lobby and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England in calling on Sen. Susan Collins to protect pre-existing condition protections and women’s access to health care;
  • In Tennessee, Protect Our Care was joined by a coalition of concerned citizens including Jen Yamin, the mother of a son with pre-existing conditions, Kristen Grimm, the mother of child with special needs, and Anna Carella, Co-Chair of Healthy and Free Tennessee, outside Sen. Bob Corker’s Nashville office, and
  • In Washington, D.C., Protect Our Care and Little Lobbyists joined Leader Chuck Schumer and Sens. Patty Murray, Ron Wyden, Chris Murphy and Chris Van Hollen at press conference to lay out the threat against Americans with pre-existing conditions if Judge Brett Kavanaugh is appointed to the Supreme Court.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION SUSPENDS RISK ADJUSTMENT PAYMENTS

On Saturday, the White House announced it was suspending risk adjustment payments. Suspending risk adjustment payments, which don’t cost the taxpayer a single penny, will make it harder for people with pre-existing conditions to access coverage, and drive up premiums for millions. How was this decision covered this week?

  • Chicago Sun-Times Editorial: Trump Administration Yanks Health Care Away From Even More Americans
  • Wall Street Journal: Trump’s Latest Affordable Care Act Move Adds To Insurers’ Uncertainty
  • Politico: Latest Obamacare Shake-up Could Fuel Rate Hikes
  • New York Times: Health Insurers Warn Of Market Turmoil As Trump Suspends Billions In Payments
  • Washington Post: Trump Administration Takes Another Major Swipe At The Affordable Care Act
  • NPR: Why Health Insurance Premiums May Rise Next Year

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION PUSHES JUNK PLANS, CUTS ENROLLMENT ASSISTANCE FOR NAVIGATORS

On Tuesday, CMS announced that the Trump Administration would be slashing navigator funding and pushing enrollment for junk plans that charge people more money for less care.

After keeping one million Americans from gaining coverage by cutting last year’s open enrollment period in half and slashing advertising for affordable plans by ninety percent, the Trump Administration is once again taking quality, affordable health care away from people who need it through its latest act of sabotage. Defunding the navigator program and forcing the navigators who are left to push junk plans on the American people is a shocking and cynical move, even by this Administration’s standards.

AND DON’T FORGET – THE WHITE HOUSE IS STILL RESPONSIBLE FOR RISING DRUG COSTS

On Tuesday, Pfizer said that it would postpone  its planned drug prices. As Axios noted, however, “Pfizer is only deferring those price hikes, not canceling them. And it’s taking its products back to what they cost in June — a time when Trump was very much of the belief that the prices were too high.” In fact, as industry analyst Richard Evans said, “This is not going to change mainstream list price behavior at all.”

In other words, Donald Trump offered yet another totally shallow promise more focused on obtaining public relations victories than lowering Americans’ medical costs. If this Administration was serious about bringing costs down, they would be following through on campaign promises like allowing Medicare to negotiate a fair price for prescription drugs. Instead, we will continue to get nothing but false assurances from an Administration heavy on rhetoric and short on solutions.

“This is How Health Care Disparities Are Exacerbated”: Trump Administration Slashes Funds To Navigators That Help People Purchase Health Care

On Tuesday, the Trump Administration escalated its war on Americans’ health care by announcing it would be slashing funding for navigators, who assist people in finding quality, affordable coverage, and directing these navigators to steer people to junk plans, which don’t have to provide consumer protections like those for pre-existing conditions.

Here’s what their decision means, and how Americans will be harmed by the Administration’s actions:

New York Times: Navigator Cuts Are Next Step In An “Escalating Attack” On The Affordable Care Act. “The Trump administration announced on Tuesday that it was slashing grants to nonprofit organizations that help people obtain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, the latest step in an escalating attack on the law that threatens to destabilize its insurance markets.” [New York Times, 7/10/18]

HHS Slashes Funding Available For Groups That Help People Sign Up For Marketplace Coverage By $26 Million.”A total of just $10 million will be available nationwide for the next enrollment season — down from $36 million for this year, and $63 million for last year…In addition to slashing navigators’ funding, CMS is also pushing navigators to sign people up for the non-ACA options the Trump administration has expanded — association health plans and cheaper, skimpier short-term policies.” [Axios, 7/11/18]

We Have Already Seen How Much Of An Impact These Cuts Have. “Last year’s cut forced navigators to lay off staff, cancel events, and, in some cases, cease operations altogether. This new cut will leave navigators with just a fraction of the money they had available for the open enrollment periods that occurred during President Barack Obama’s administration ― in all likelihood hampering their ability to help consumers through the complicated process of choosing a health insurance policy and applying for financial assistance.” [Huffington Post, 7/10/18]

Trump Administration Claims Nonprofit Navigator Groups Do Worse Job Helping People Find Coverage Than Insurance Agents And Commercial Brokers. “Trump administration officials said the insurance counselors, known as navigators, did not enroll enough people to justify more spending. Insurance agents and brokers do much better, they said.” [New York Times, 7/10/18]

Administration Fundamentally Shifts Mission Of Navigator Groups, Instructing Them To Encourage People To Sign Up For Junk Plans That Are Exempt From Key Consumer Protections. “They will, for the first time, help people enroll in health insurance plans that do not comply with the consumer protection standards and other requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Since they began work in 2013, navigators have helped people enroll in health plans that comply with the Affordable Care Act. Now the Trump administration says they should also inform consumers of other options, like ‘association health plans’ and short-term, limited-duration insurance. Such plans do not have to provide the standard health benefits like preventive services, maternity care or prescription drug coverage, but administration officials say they will also be more affordable to consumers.” [New York Times, 7/10/18]

New York Magazine: “The Trump White House Has Been Busy Separating Migrant Families And Plotting The Demise Of Roe V. Wade In Recent Weeks, But Don’t Worry: They Haven’t Forgotten About Their Quest To Make It Harder For Americans To Obtain Adequate Health Insurance.” “But the administration isn’t just making it more difficult for people to enroll in Obamacare. Going forward, the administration wants navigators to steer clients into skimpier health coverage. While nonprofits operating under the navigator program were previously forbidden from recommending particular health plans, now groups that apply for the grants will be expected to encourage people to buy association health plans or short-term insurance plans.” [New York Magazine, 7/11/18]

Navigator Cuts Will Do More Than Just Suppress ACA Enrollment, They Will Likely Also Reduce Enrollment In Medicaid And CHIP. “Consumers who use navigators frequently end up enrolling in Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program or other special programs ― or simply enrolling on their own, at home, after long consultation with navigators. As a result, they don’t show up as enrolling in the private marketplace plans, which is the metric CMS is using to judge navigator performance. Navigators also target people with special needs, including those with complicated medical or financial situations that make eligibility for federal programs confusing. These are precisely the sorts of people who might not respond to routine advertising or find the help they need through commercial brokers.” [Huffington Post, 7/10/18]

NAVIGATOR GROUP LEADERS WARN THAT CUTS WILL HURT UNDERSERVED POPULATIONS

Fred Ammons, Supervises Insure Georgia Navigator Group: This Means Less Help To Underserved Populations. “This is a huge cut to navigator programs across the country. It will virtually eliminate face-to-face in-person assistance. It means less help, much less help, to underserved, hard-to-reach populations, people who live in rural areas or have low literacy or don’t speak English as their primary language.” [New York Times, 7/10/18]

Jodi Ray, Project Director For Florida Covering Kids And Families: We Will Be Put in Awful Position Of Pitting Populations Against Each Other. “This is pretty terrible, We will be put in the awful position of pitting populations that need assistance against each other, in order to prioritize how we can use the resources. This also does not take into account all the kinds of assistance navigators provide all year, such as helping with complex cases and issues and filing appeals. Florida will definitely be hit hard by this.” [Huffington Post, 7/10/18]

  • Ray: “This Is How Health Care Disparities Are Exacerbated.” [Kaiser Health News, 7/12/18]

Catherine Edwards, Executive Director Of Missouri Association Of Area Agencies On Aging: Administration Is “Strangling” Navigator Program. “They’re just strangling the program…They couldn’t kill the program in Congress, so they are cutting the money.” [Washington Post, 7/10/18]

William Hoagland, Bipartisan Policy Center Senior Vice President: “It Does Send A Signal Of Course That The Administration Is Not Promoting Enrollment.” “Combined with other recent actions by the Trump administration, the decision sets a negative tone, Hoagland said. ‘It does send a signal of course that the administration is not promoting enrollment,’ he said.” [Kaiser Health News, 7/12/18]

Elizabeth Hagen, Senior Health Consultant: Shifting Focus To Junk Plans Will Lead Consumers To Plans That Don’t Reflect THeir Needs. “CMS now wants the navigators to promote these policies in addition to steering people toward ACA-compliant plans and Medicaid. This adds to the concern about the lack of navigator funding. The availability of such new types of coverage will increase consumer demand for specially trained navigators, said Elizabeth Hagan, a senior consultant with Transform Health, a consulting firm. She said the problem with reducing consumer assistance is not so much that fewer people will buy coverage but that people will buy policies that don’t fit their needs.”  [Kaiser Health News, 7/12/18]

Mark Van Arnam, Director of North Carolina Navigator Consortium: Cuts Will Be Devastating To People Who Need Assistance To Find Coverage. “They are the public face of the Affordable Care Act in North Carolina for legions of residents stumped by the complexities of health insurance. But next year, ACA navigators — the trained instructors who explain health benefits and help people enroll — will be harder to find as a result of federal funding cuts. The Trump administration announced Tuesday it would could nationwide funding for navigators by 72 percent, from $36 million to $10 million. In North Carolina, which has consistently had the nation’s highest enrollments, the navigator budget will be cut by 85 percent — from $3.4 million to $500,000. ‘These are significant cuts,’ said Mark Van Arnam, director of the N.C. Navigator Consortium. ‘There’s a large portion of the population that we talk to that doesn’t understand the ACA and needs assistance.’” [News & Observer, 7/12/18]

Four Ways Kavanaugh Could Impact People With Coverage Through Medicaid

Republicans have been on a relentless war on health care, wielding legislation, executive action and litigation as weapons in their war on the protections that prevent insurance companies from charging women, people over age 50 and people with pre-existing conditions more for health care — and on Medicaid.

Here’s how confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court could wreak havoc on Medicaid:

1. Kavanaugh Could Allow States To Restrict Enrollment Through Onerous Work Requirements designed to make it harder for people to get the coverage they need. As a lawsuit against Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin’s work requirements makes its way through the courts, President Trump’s next Supreme Court justice could rule on them, shifting Medicaid’s role away from its core purpose of providing health care to the most vulnerable Americans.

  • Abbe Gluck, Yale Professor Of Health Law, Could See Kavanaugh Opening The Door To More Restrictions On Medicaid: “We don’t know very much about how Judge Kavanaugh will approach work requirements…It’s unclear to me how deferential he would be to the CMS. I could see him opening the door to more restrictions on Medicaid.”

2. Kavanaugh Could Prevent Medicaid From Covering Health Care At Planned Parenthood. Several states have taken to excluding Planned Parenthood from their Medicaid programs. In those states, Planned Parenthood is fighting back. If Kavanaugh, who just last year forced a young woman to continue a pregnancy despite her will, is confirmed, he could prevent Medicaid from covering life-saving preventive health services, such as cancer screenings, at Planned Parenthood.

3. He Could Deny Individuals And Providers The Right To Sue When A State’s Medicaid Program Isn’t Complying With The Law, Which Experts Suggest Will Enable States To Decimate Their Medicaid Programs.  As Axios has reported, conservatives on the Supreme Court including Justice Clarence Thomas and the late Antonin Scalia have argued that because Medicaid is a contract between states and the federal government, individuals and providers do not have the right to sue for entitlements the statute requires.

  • Cases Involving Providers’ and Patients’ Right To Court Are Working Their Way Up To The Supreme Court, including one case in which an appeals court ruled that Planned Parenthood does not have the right to sue Arkansas over its Medicaid program.
  • Timothy Jost, Law Professor At Washington And Lee, Thinks Kavanaugh Could Make A Huge Difference In Cases Involving The Rights Of Poor People To Sue To Enforce The Medicaid Statute: “Where I do see Kavanaugh making a huge difference is in cases involving the rights of poor people to sue to enforce the Medicaid statute.”
  • If The Right To Sue Goes Away, George Washington University Law Professor Sara Rosenbaum Warns States May Start Hacking Away At Medicaid. She says, “it’s certainly possible that a state would start hacking away at its program. There would be no deterrence at all.”

4. He Could End Medicaid Expansion. The Affordable Care Act enabled states to expand access to Medicaid for people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line. Should the Affordable Care Act come before the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh, who has previously criticized Justice John Roberts for voting to uphold the ACA,  could vote to end the law and its Medicaid expansion.

  • Trump’s Justice Department Has Already Backed A Texas Lawsuit Challenging The Legality Of The Affordable Care Act, And Prominent Republican Leaders Have Assured That The ACA Will Continue To Be Litigated. Senator Orrin Hatch said, “The Affordable Care Act is one of the broad, inclusive bills that you’ll ever see. And anybody who thinks it’s not going to be litigated sometime in the future is nuts.”

Why this matters: Medicaid is how one in five Americans have health insurance. If confirmed, Brett Kavanaugh could be a key player in sabotaging the program and threatening coverage for children, older adults, people with disabilities, people struggling with addiction, in states across the country.

Protect Our Care Highlights Maine and Alaska Pre-Existing Condition Stories in Press Conference to Stop Brett Kavanaugh

Washington, D.C. – This morning, Protect Our Care and Little Lobbyists joined Leader Chuck Schumer and Senators Patty Murray, Ron Wyden, Chris Murphy and Chris Van Hollen at press conference to lay out the threat against Americans with pre-existing conditions if Judge Brett Kavanaugh is appointed to the Supreme Court.

“A year ago this month, with every Democrat and Senators Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and John McCain, we defeated the number one legislative priority of Republicans and President Trump dating back seven years: repealing protections from people with pre-existing conditions and the whole Affordable Care Act,” said Brad Woodhouse, executive director of Protect Our Care. “For the health of the American people, we need the pro-health care majority in the Senate to come together again and keep Brett Kavanagh off the Supreme Court.”

Woodhouse highlighted at the press conference stories from Maine and Alaska, home to key Republican Senators in the nomination battle Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Susan Collins (ME):

  • Diane Decker of Anchorage, Alaska was diagnosed with leukemia in her late twenties, going through a bone marrow transplant and beating cancer. Despite this, years later when she wanted to start her own business, she was unable to find insurance. After the ACA, she was able to find coverage.
  • Alyce Ornella of Bangor, Maine gave birth to a son born with life-threatening birth defects and and in need of surgery to stay alive, as well as a team of specialists to help him as he grew older. The ACA ensured that Sam could get coverage without his family going into bankruptcy, and today he is a happy and healthy child.

Read more about why a vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh is a vote against these families — and all of the 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions.

###

Orrin Hatch Admits GOP Coming for Pre-Existing Conditions and Medicaid

 

Today, Sen. Orrin Hatch said this:

In other words, Sen. Hatch knows that the Affordable Care Act will – yet again – be on trial in the nation’s court system. In fact, there are two ways this is currently happening:

  1. In Texas v. United States, an ongoing lawsuit, the Trump Administration has joined with Republican attorneys general to argue that protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions should be struck down.
  2. Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court represents a drastic attack on Medicaid. Should Kavanaugh be confirmed, he will have the chance to dramatically reshape Medicaid, transforming it into a much more restrictive program:
    • Kavanaugh could allow states to impose onerous work requirements designed to make it harder for people to get the coverage they need;
    • Kavanaugh could deny individuals and providers the right to sue when a state’s medicaid program isn’t complying with the law;
    • Kavanaugh could exclude prevent medicaid from covering health care at planned parenthood, and
    • Kavanaugh could end Medicaid expansion.

Put together, what does this all mean?

A vote to appoint Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is a vote against the 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions and the nearly 75 million Americans covered by Medicaid, and anyone who thinks otherwise need only look to Sen. Hatch.

Trump Administration Continues War On People With Pre-Existing Conditions By Suspending Billions In Risk Payments

This weekend, President Trump made another move in his war on health care. He suspended risk adjustment payments that help insurance companies offer more affordable coverage to everyone, regardless of if they are healthy or sick. By refusing to make risk adjustment payments — even though they don’t cost the taxpayer a single penny — President Trump and his Administration are making it harder for people with pre-existing conditions to access coverage, and driving up premiums for millions.

NATIONAL HEADLINES PAINT A TELLING STORY

  • Chicago Sun-Times Editorial: Trump Administration Yanks Health Care Away From Even More Americans. [7/10/18]
  • Wall Street Journal: Trump’s Latest Affordable Care Act Move Adds To Insurers’ Uncertainty. [7/8/18]
  • Los Angeles Times: Another Challenge For Obamacare — And A Bigger Bill For Taxpayers. [Los Angeles Times, 7/10/18]
  • Politico: Latest Obamacare Shake-up Could Fuel Rate Hikes. [Politico, 7/9/18]
  • New York Times: Health Insurers Warn Of Market Turmoil As Trump Suspends Billions In Payments. [7/7/18]
  • NPR: Trump Administration Freezes Payments Required By The Affordable Care Act. [NPR, 7/8/18]
  • Washington Post: Trump Administration Takes Another Major Swipe At The Affordable Care Act. [7/7/18]
  • Los Angeles Times: Trump Administration Freezes Billions Of Dollars In Payments To Obamacare Insurers. [7/8/18]
  • NPR: Why Health Insurance Premiums May Rise Next Year. [NPR, 7/9/18]
  • Associated Press: Trump Administration Takes Another Swipe At Obamacare.[Associated Press, 7/9/18]
  • USA Today: Trump Administration Freezes Payments Required By Affordable Care Act, Health Care Premiums Could Rise. [7/8/18]
  • Fortune: Trump Administration Freezes Payments To Affordable Care Act Insurers With Sicker Patients. [7/8/18]
  • Bloomberg: Trump Health Officials Toss Obamacare Insurers Another Curveball.[7/7/18]
  • Slate: It Sure Looks Like The Trump Administration Is Trying To Sabotage Obamacare Again. [7/8/18]
  • Bustle: What Does Trump’s Freeze On Obamacare Payments Mean? Premiums Could “Significantly Increase.” [7/9/18]

IN STATES, FEARS GROW AMONGST INSURANCE COMPANIES

  • Baltimore Sun: Maryland Insurers Say Trump Administration To Cut Health Payments Destabilizes Market. [7/9/18]
  • Chattanooga Times Free Press: Obamacare Payment Change Raises Worries For Individual Rates. [7/11/18]
  • Indianapolis Business Journal: Anthem Could Take Big Hit From Halt To Risk-Adjustment Payments. [7/10/18]
  • Star Tribune: Three Minnesota Health Plans Face Combined Hit Of $71.7 Million. [7/9/18]
  • Rutland Herald: ACA Changes Worry Vermont Health Care Officials. [7/9/18]
  • Georgia Health News: Insurers Caught Off Guard By Feds’ Freeze Of ACA ‘Sickness’ Payments. [7/9/18]
  • California Healthline: Health Insurers Struggle With Sudden Freeze On ACA Payouts. [7/10/18]
  • Associated Press: South Dakota Insurers May Take Hit After Payment Freeze. [7/10/18]

INSURANCE GROUPS, EXPERTS, AND PRESS CONDEMN ADMINISTRATION’S MOVE

America’s Health Insurance Plans: Decision To Halt Payments “Will Create More Market Uncertainty And Increase Premiums For Many Health Plans.” “We are very discouraged by the new market disruption brought about by the decision to freeze risk adjustment payments. This decision comes at a critical time when insurance providers are developing premiums for 2019 and states are reviewing rates. This decision will have serious consequences for millions of consumers who get their coverage through small businesses or buy coverage on their own. It will create more market uncertainty and increase premiums for many health plans – putting a heavier burden on small businesses and consumers, and reducing coverage options. And costs for taxpayers will rise as the federal government spends more on premium subsidies.” [AHIP, 7/7/18]

Sabrina Corlette, Health Policy Researcher At Georgetown: Administration Is Throwing Wrench Into Critical Program Whose Goal Is To Protect People With Pre-Existing Conditions Against Discrimination. “The government opted for ‘throwing a monkey wrench into a critical program whose primary goal is to protect people with pre-existing conditions from discrimination by insurers.’” [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 7/9/18]

Chicago Sun-Times: This Is Bad News For All Americans Who Believe Nobody Should Be Priced Out Of Basic Health Care To Save The Rest Of Us Buck. “That’s bad news for the chronically ill, the disabled, the elderly and all others whose health care costs can run considerably higher than average. It’s bad news, as well, for all Americans who believe that nobody should be priced out of basic health care just to save the rest of us a buck.” [Chicago Sun-Times, 7/10/18]

Blue Cross Blue Shield Association: “Without Quick Resolution On This Matter, This Action Will Significantly Increase 2019 Premiums For Millions.” “Without a quick resolution to this matter, this action will significantly increase 2019 premiums for millions of individuals and small business owners and could result in far fewer health plan choices. It will undermine Americans’ access to affordable coverage, particularly for those who need medical care the most…The action taken today will create turmoil not only for those in the individual market – particularly as insurers finalize their offerings for the next open enrollment that begins in November – but also for the millions of businesses that rely on the small group market to provide affordable insurance options for their employees.” [Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, 7/7/18]

Bill Wehrle, Kaiser Permanente Vice President Of Health Insurance Exchanges: Effective Risk Adjustment Program Is “Crucial,” Especially For Those With Pre-Existing Conditions. “An effective risk adjustment program is crucial to the sound operation of a health insurance marketplace in which individuals, families and small businesses with health needs have access to more affordable, high-quality coverage…It enables the country to move away from a market where plans compete to avoid covering or charge more to people with preexisting health conditions, to one where competition is based on quality, affordable care for everyone.” [Baltimore Sun, 7/9/18]

Larry Levitt, Senior Vice President of Kaiser Family Foundation: “This Is One Of Several Steps The Trump Administration Has Taken To Undermine The ACA.” “‘Insurers hate uncertainty, and when faced with it tend to raise premiums to hedge their bets,” says Larry Levitt, Senior Vice President at the Kaiser Family Foundation. He says halting the risk adjustment program will disrupt the individual markets, and might even cause insurers not to participate next year. ‘When the rules of the game change after the fact – insurers don’t necessarily see the federal government as a particularly reliable partner right now,’ Levitt says. ‘This is one of several steps the Trump administration has taken to undermine the ACA.'” [NPR, 7/8/18]

Rodney Whitlock, Vice President of Health Policy At ML Strategies And Former Republican Congressional Aide: Administration’s Goal Is To Make Marketplace As Inhospitable As Possible For Participating Plans. “‘What you have to keep in mind is ultimately the intent of the administration,’ Whitlock says. “The executive order the president signed, not long after he got to the White House after the [Inaugural] Parade was effectively, ‘We’re declaring war on the Affordable Care Act.'” Whitlock says, the goal has been to make the marketplace as inhospitable as possible for participating plans, and this is just one more step in that direction.” [NPR, 7/8/18]

Washington Post: “The Suspension Of These Payments Is The Most Recent Maneuver By The Trump Administration To Undercut The Health-Care Law That President Trump Has Vowed Since His Campaign To Demolish.” “The suspension of these payments is the most recent maneuver by the Trump administration to undercut the health-care law that President Trump has vowed since his campaign to demolish. A Republican-led Congress last year failed to repeal much of the ACA. The administration has been taking steps to dismantle it through executive powers.” [Washington Post, 7/7/18]

Nicholas Bagley, University of Michigan Law Professor: “This Is No Way To Run A Health Program, And No Way To Run A Government.” “In another sense, however, the needless suspension of the risk adjustment program is a signal that the Trump administration remains intent on sabotage. Already, insurers were stiffed on their risk corridor money. Then the cost-sharing payments evaporated. Now, even risk adjustment money may go up in smoke. What’s next? This is no way to run a health program, and no way to run a government.” [Nicholas Bagley, 7/9/18]

Los Angeles Times: Halted Risk Payments Will Burden Taxpayers. “But it will be painful for at least two groups of Americans. The first includes the people who aren’t covered by a large employer’s plan and who earn too much money to qualify for federal subsidies. They’d be facing higher premiums anyway, thanks to the rising cost of healthcare. But the increase will be larger than it should be courtesy of the Trump administration’s handling of this issue…Meanwhile, people who earn less than 400% of the federal poverty level — for a family of four, that’s about $100,000 — are eligible for subsidies under the ACA that hold their premiums to a percentage of their personal income. No matter how much premiums go up, the subsidies absorb the change. As a consequence, the higher premiums rise, the more the subsidies cost federal taxpayers. Those are people who’ll bear most of the cost of freezing the risk adjustment transfers.” [Los Angeles Times, 7/10/18]

Risk Adjustment Decision Fits With Broader Pattern Of Trump Administration Using Courts To Sabotage ACA. “It’s hard not to wonder, though, whether someone in the White House belatedly realized this case was another untapped opportunity to spook insurers into spiking premiums, finding creative ways to repel sick people or leaving the market altogether. That would fit neatly into the administration’s broader pattern of using court cases as excuses to undermine the Affordable Care Act, after all. The others include killing reimbursements to insurers for subsidies for lower-income people, and refusing to defend the law’s protections for those with preexisting conditions.” [Washington Post, 7/9/18]

NPR: Not Surprising Trump Sided With New Mexico Given Republicans Have Been “Trying To Kill The Affordable Care Act For Quite A Long Time.” “It’s a little bit confusing because the court ruling was back in February. There’s an order in – out of New Mexico that said the formula for making the payments was unfair. But there’s a second court order in Massachusetts that held the opposite. So HHS seems to have chosen which side to take. They chose the New Mexico ruling, which isn’t all that surprising because the Trump administration up until now – and even Republicans before Trump became president – have been trying to kill the Affordable Care Act for quite a long time.” [NPR, Kodjak, 7/9/18]

Trump Administration Pushes Junk Plans, Cuts Enrollment Assistance for Navigators

Washington, D.C. – Following the announcement by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that the Trump Administration is slashing navigator funding and pushing enrollment for junk plans that charge people more money for less care, Leslie Dach, campaign chair for Protect Our Care, issued the following statement:

“After keeping one million Americans from gaining coverage by cutting last year’s open enrollment period in half and slashing advertising for affordable plans by ninety percent, the Trump Administration is once again taking quality, affordable health care away from people who need it through its latest act of sabotage. Defunding the navigator program and forcing the navigators who are left to push junk plans on the American people is a shocking and cynical move, even by this Administration’s standards.”

BACKGROUND:

Breaking: Trump Administration Slashes Grants To Help Americans Get Affordable Care Act Coverage. The Trump administration is eliminating most of the funding for grass-roots groups that help Americans get Affordable Care Act insurance and will for the first time urge the groups to promote health plans that bypass the law’s consumer protections and required benefits. The reduction, the second round of cuts that began a summer ago, will shrink the federal money devoted to groups known as navigators from $36.8 million to $10 million for the enrollment period that starts in November.” [The Washington Post, 7/10/2018].

During The First Open Enrollment Period, 10.6 Million Americans Were Assisted By Navigators. “More than 4,400 Assister Programs, employing more than 28,000 full-time-equivalent staff and volunteers, helped an estimated 10.6 million people during the first Open Enrollment period.” [Kaiser Family Foundation, 7/15/14]

For Months, The Groups That Help People Sign Up For Marketplace Coverage Have Been In Limbo. “Local groups that help people sign up for ObamaCare and Medicaid have yet to hear from the Trump administration about their annual federal funding, leaving many in limbo and fearing the grants could be too small or might not come at all…The organizations typically hear from the federal government in April or early May with information about how much money will be available for grants, when key deadlines are and the expected award date. But several navigators contacted by The Hill said they have received no information from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services..When asked about the navigator grants, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) wrote in an email that HHS did not have any details to share at this time.” [The Hill, 6/20/18]

  • Dan Derksen, Doctor Who Oversees Navigator Program At University Of Arizona: “At a time when people have more questions, it’s very likely there will be fewer people to help them in person.” [USA Today, 6/21/18]
  • Last Year’s Cuts Led University Of Florida Navigator Program To Cut Staff. “Jodi Ray, director of Florida Covering Kids & Families navigator group at the University of South Florida, said her organization is bracing for changes. Last year’s cuts forced the Florida group to trim the number of employed navigators. She worries that further cuts and program changes could harm the state’s vulnerable residents who rely on the organization’s services.” [USA Today, 6/21/18]
  • Karen Egozi, CEO Of The Epilepsy Foundation Of Florida: We’re In The Dark. “We really haven’t gotten any update or any deadline to submit applications or any knowledge at all about what the future is going to bring.” [The Hill, 6/20/18]
  • Catherine Edwards, Executive Director For The Missouri Association Of Area Agencies On Aging: Administration Has No Incentive To Work With Community Groups. “We know this administration is not friendly to the ACA, and so they have no incentive to involve community-based groups in enrolling people.” [The Hill, 6/20/18]
  • Shelli Quenga, Director Of Programs For South Carolina-Based Palmetto Project: Restricting Support Is Bad For Consumers. “It’s very unfortunate for the consumer…We know that consumers still need in-person assistance — and especially consumers who are not native English speakers, consumers who are living just above the poverty line who don’t have a lot of experience with making big financial decisions like this that also have long-term implications to their financial future for themselves and their family members.” [The Hill, 6/20/18]
  • Cutting Funds To Navigator Groups Means They Must Significantly Cut Back On Outreach. “‘We have no expectation of any federal money being available to us,’ said Donna Friedsam, the director of Covering Wisconsin, a navigator program. Her organization received a 42 percent reduction last year because of the funding changes. It previously offered enrollment services in 23 counties, but had to scale down to 12.” [The Hill, 6/20/18]
  • Trump Administration Considering Cutting Funding For Health Care Navigator Groups. “The Trump administration is considering cutting funding for ObamaCare outreach groups that help people enroll in coverage, sources say. An initial proposal by the administration would have cut the funding for the groups, known as “navigators,” from $36 million last year to $10 million this year. Sources say that proposal now could be walked back, and it is possible funding could remain the same as last year, but it is unclear where the final number will end up.” [The Hill, 6/29/18]
  • Jodi Ray, Director Of Florida Covering Kids And Families: “Less Resources Means We Have Less Boots On The Ground To Provide That Enrollment Assistance.” [The Hill, 6/29/18]

Advocates Mount Defense of Health Care for Millions

Last night, President Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be the next Supreme Court justice. To be clear, Trump had two litmus tests in selecting Brett Kavanaugh for the Court:

1) overturning Roe v. Wade, and

2) overturning Americans’ health care by gutting protections for those with pre-existing conditions.

Across the country, health care advocates geared up in opposition, urging their senators to reject Judge Kavanaugh, an activist judge who was hand-picked to rubber-stamp President Trump and Congressional Republicans’ war on health care.

Here are some highlights, with more activity on the ground happening today.

In Alaska, Protect Our Care was joined by health care advocates, Alaska Native leaders, and former Alaska Superior Court Judge John Reese to urge Sen. Lisa Murkowski to do what is best for Alaska and reject a justice who won’t protect Alaskans’ care.

In Maine, Protect Our Care was joined by the Maine Women’s Lobby and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England in calling on Sen. Susan Collins to protect pre-existing condition protections and women’s access to health care.

In Arizona, Jeff Jeans, a cancer survivor joined  state Rep. Athena Salman, and representatives from Planned Parenthood and ACLU Arizona urged Senator Flake to stand up for Arizonans’ care.

In Nevada, Protect Our Care and Laura Packard, a health care advocate living with cancer, Cyndy Hernandez of NARAL Pro-Choice Nevada, and Sam Shaw of SEIU Nevada Local 1107 urged Sen. Dean Heller to stand up and protect Nevadans’ health care.

In Ohio, Protect Our Care Ohio joined with Innovation Ohio, the Physicians Action Network, and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio highlighted the current and long-term threats to health care under a conservative Supreme Court.

In Tennessee, Protect Our Care was joined by a coalition of concerned citizens including Jen Yamin, the mother of a son with pre-existing conditions, Kristen Grimm, the mother of child with special needs, and Anna Carella, Co-Chair of Healthy and Free Tennessee, outside Sen. Bob Corker’s Nashville office.

In West Virginia, Protect Our Care advocates went on the record to make it clear that they want their senators to stand up health care.