Monthly Archives

July 2018

Protect Our Care Statement on the Nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court by President Trump

Washington, D.C. – Following the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court by President Trump, Brad Woodhouse, executive director of Protect Our Care, released the following statement:

“Make no mistake, President Trump had at least two litmus tests for Judge Kavanaugh to become his nominee for the Supreme Court: overturn Roe v. Wade and overturn America’s health care, 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. This extreme judicial agenda, of ripping health care away from millions of people and returning to an era when women and doctors are criminals, is opposed by the vast majority of the American people. This nomination must be stopped and, given the previous Republican votes against repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and support for the precedent of Roe v Wade, it can be.”

Shot/Chaser: Trump’s the Reason Drug Prices are Going Up

SHOT: On May 30, Trump promised that pharmacutical companies would voluntarily make big price cuts in “two weeks.” We’re still waiting, and in fact drug prices have gone up, as Trump acknowledged today:  

CHASER: Trump’s the reason drug prices going up so significantly.

 

White House Picks PhRMA Lobbyist to Guide Supreme Court Pick

Washington, D.C. – Following the White House’s announcement that former senator and current Big Pharma lobbyist Jon Kyl would be shepherding President Trump’s Supreme Court pick through the Senate, Brad Woodhouse, executive director of Protect Our Care, released the following statement:

“We already know that the biggest problem for Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick would be their support for Trump’s position in favor of a lawsuit striking down health care protections, like those for people with pre-existing conditions. By making a Big Pharma lobbyist who has repeatedly called for repeal of the Affordable Care Act the representative of his nominee, President Trump is once again making clear where his priorities lie: with insurance and drug companies, not the 130 million Americans with a pre-existing condition.”

New Trump Sabotage Expected to Raise Premiums Even Further

Trump Gears Up for New Blow to Coverage Protections for People with Pre-existing Conditions

Washington, DC – In response to a Wall Street Journal report that the Trump administration is expected to further drive up rates for consumers by suspending the risk adjustment program, Brad Woodhouse, executive director of Protect Our Care, issued the following statement:

“The Trump administration just keeps pushing their destructive repeal-and-sabotage agenda, no matter the cost to the American people. Following through with this latest act of sabotage could raise rates for all consumers even more — on top of the rate hikes they have already caused — and is without a doubt an escalation in the Trump administration’s war on people with pre-existing conditions. By redistributing funds from plans with ‘lower risk’ enrollees to ‘higher risk’ ones, the risk adjustment program is one important way the Affordable Care Act helps make health coverage affordable for people, particularly those with pre-existing conditions. We urge the Trump Administration to back off of this dangerous and destabilizing plan, and instead begin working on bipartisan solutions to make coverage more affordable.”

Advocates Gear Up to Defend Health Care for Millions

Protect Our Care Coalition to Host Events Across the Country As Supreme Court Pick Looms

Enough Is Enough Poster

  • As President Trump prepares to make his Supreme Court announcement Monday, Americans from coast to coast are gearing up to make clear to their Senators that they must not vote against health care by voting for an extreme nominee who will use their position to attack our health care.
  • Protect Our Care is active in fourteen states, and our advocates have already scheduled events on Monday in Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. We’ll be holding a rally at Monument Square in Bangor, Maine; a press conference in front of Sen. Bob Corker’s office in Nashville, Tennessee; and a press call with local leaders, health care advocates, and a former judge in Alaska.
  • President Trump and Congressional Republicans have spent the past 18 months waging a relentless war on our health care, with millions losing coverage, premiums increasing by double digits, and protections for people with pre-existing conditions eroding. But all of these pale in comparison to the damage that an extreme Supreme Court justice could do — read more to find out all that’s at stake for health care with this Supreme Court vacancy.

Protect Our Care’s national leaders and local advocates are available for on the record interviews. Please contact [email protected].

Health Care on the Line with Trump’s SCOTUS Pick

To: Interested Parties

From: Brad Woodhouse, executive director of Protect Our Care

Date: July 6, 2018

Re: Health Care on the Line with Trump’s SCOTUS Pick

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

For the last 18 months, President Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have been waging a relentless war on our health care, resulting in millions of people losing coverage, double digit premium rate increases, and weakened protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Now, with the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, the President has an opportunity to tip the balance of the Supreme Court further in his favor and appoint a justice hostile to our health care, as he has repeatedly promised he would do. Make no mistake: our health care is on the line if Trump succeeds in appointing an extreme judge who will rubber stamp his anti-health care agenda.

Here’s why:

Trump’s Shortlist Includes Nominees Who Have Demonstrated Hostility to Health Care

Reportedly, President Trump has narrowed his list of potential justices to three people: Judges Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and Raymond Kethledge. All three are on the Federalist Society-approved list of justices Trump released. The Federalist Society, as should be noted, has been fighting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) since before it was even signed into law and has consistently pushed judges very hostile toward women’s health.

Specifically, Judge Kavanaugh has argued that a president could declare a law unconstitutional and refuse to enforce it “even if a court has held or would hold the statute constitutional.”

Judge Barrett has already written that she believed the ACA should have been declared unconstitutional, that Roe v Wade was “erroneous,” and the ACA’s birth control benefit was “an assault on religious liberty.”

Consumer Protections, Including Prohibitions on Discriminating Against the 130 Million People with Pre-Existing Conditions, Are At Risk

Prior to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies were able to cherry pick who they wanted to cover and would often discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions by charging them more, dropping coverage once people got sick, or denying coverage altogether. The ACA banned all of those practices, providing health security to millions.

  • Roughly half of nonelderly American adults, or up to 130 million people, have at least one pre-existing condition.
  • Nationally, the most common pre-existing conditions were high blood pressure (44 million people), behavioral health disorders (45 million people), high cholesterol (44 million people), asthma and chronic lung disease (34 million people), and osteoarthritis and other joint disorders (34 million people).

These protections have consistently been the most popular component of the law among not only Democrats, but Republicans and Independents as well.

Nevertheless, President Trump has taken every opportunity he has had to dismantle the consumer protections and market reforms in the ACA. Though he failed to enact legislation to repeal the ACA, on his first day in office, President Trump signed an executive order directing his administration to use whatever tools they could to undo as much of the ACA as it could. His administration has further taken actions to sabotage the law by allowing insurance companies to sell junk plans that do not have to cover people with pre-existing conditions, among other things.

Don’t forget: Trump campaigned on ending the ACA by any means necessary, and he had his sights on the Court from the very beginning. In fact, as a candidate Trump said he would have a “very strong test” for Supreme Court nominees, pointing to his “disappointment” in Chief Justice John Roberts, as “somebody that should have, frankly, ended Obamacare, and he didn’t.” As the leading coalition fighting against Republicans’ ongoing efforts to repeal and sabotage health care and working instead to protect coverage for millions of Americans, Protect Our Care knows that Trump’s meaning is clear: he has a litmus test for his Supreme Court nominees, and repealing the ACA is on that test.

After all, ending protections for people with pre-existing conditions is already the official policy of the Trump Administration. Normally, the Department of Justice (DOJ) defends federal law in court. However, the Trump Administration has taken the extraordinary step of joining the latest partisan lawsuit that seeks to invalidate the ACA and has argued the Court needs to take away the provisions in the law that prevent insurance companies from denying coverage or charging people more because of a pre-existing condition. If the Trump administration had its way, overnight the 130 million people with a pre-existing condition would once again be at the mercy of insurance companies.

This case should not be taken lightly three prior challenges to the Affordable Care Act (NFIB, et al. v. Sebelius, King v. Burwell, Hobby Lobby v. Burwell) have made their way to the Supreme Court, despite early doubts among legal scholars.  

Women’s Health Care is on the Line

President Trump’s campaign promise to appoint biased justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade and the dangerous consequences of making safe abortion a crime in this country have been widely reported. But many other women’s health services are under threat with this appointment. Among them:

Medicaid is Also at Risk

Medicaid is not only supported by three-quarters of Americans, it is a lifeline for one in five people, providing critical preventive care, substance use treatment, acute care, and more to more than 70 million people. Medicaid is the primary provider for long-term care in the country, covering 6 in 10 nursing home residents. It is also the primary provider to help people with disabilities stay in their homes, and pays for roughly half of the births in this country.

But the Trump Administration has launched a new assault on Medicaid enrollees by pushing states to adopt rigid rules (so-called “work requirements”) that are designed to be impossible for to be met and therefore prevent coverage. These new rules are just beginning to work their way through the courts, and while a federal district court judge recently blocked them in Kentucky, they could very well make their way to the high court soon.

THE BOTTOM LINE: All 100 Senators must reject a nominee that would take away, rather than protect, our care.

If Trump appoints an extreme nominee to the bench, and the Senate does not intervene, the balance of the court will turn against Americans’ right to health care. The Supreme Court should be a check on President Trump’s war on health care, not a rubber stamp on it.

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

Washington, D.C. – As preliminary Georgia rate filings for 2019 individual-market health insurance indicated potential double-digit premium increases due to Washington Republicans’ repeal-and-sabotage agenda, Brad Woodhouse, Protect Our Care executive director, 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 Georgia 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, D.C. 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 Georgians.”

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 Georgia, no short-term plans available have to cover maternity care, and only 37 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 percent, and 47 percent in Georgia.

  • 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 Georgia by an average 19.5 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 Georgians’ care.

  • 480,912 Georgians signed up for Marketplace coverage this year.
  • Thanks to the Marketplace, Georgia’s uninsured rate fell by 4.7 percent between 2013 and 2016 as Georgians have gained access to affordable coverage.
  • Before today’s announcement, the Urban Institute predicted that Georgia premiums for 2019 could rise 19.5 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 85 percent of Georgia Marketplace consumers, whose average 2018 premium is $77 per month.
  • But because of the Republican sabotage agenda, many middle-income Georgians could pay hundreds or thousands of dollars more than they would have otherwise.

Georgians 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.

From The Insurance Companies:

Kaiser: 14.7% Rate Increase Due To GOP Actions. “The projected rate increase is 14.7%. There are several reasons for the high rate increase… CSR payments were not funded in 2018 and our 2018 rates were not adjusted to reflect this. We expect this to continue in 2019… Population morbidity is worsening [due to] changes to the individual mandate, and changes to the treatment of short term and association plans.” [ACA Signups, 7/3/18]

Ambetter: Rates Rising Due To Repeal Of Individual Mandate. “We then projected this historical morbidity snapshot forward to account for risk pool deterioration in reaction to elimination of the individual mandate.” [ACA Signups, 7/3/18]

Alliant: Reasons For Increase Include Administration Cutting Off Cost-Sharing Reduction Payments. “The reasons for the rate change increase are… Non-enforcement of federal funding cost-sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies.” [ACA Signups, 7/3/18]

Why Georgians’ 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 Georgia forecast double-digit rate hikes again this fall because of Republican sabotage.

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, 5/23/18]

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, 5/18/18]

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]

After Trump Promised Prescription Drug Price Cuts, They Go Way Up

Just over a month ago, President Trump promised to lower drug prices.

MAY 30 2018 –

Bloomberg: Trump Says Drug Companies to Unveil Price Cuts in Two Weeks

“Major pharmaceutical companies will announce ‘voluntary, massive’ cuts in drug prices in two weeks, President Donald Trump said Wednesday, without providing details. ‘We’re also working very hard at getting the cost of medicine down, and I think people are going to start to see for the first time ever in this country a major drop in the cost of prescription drugs,’ Trump said while signing legislation making it easier for terminally ill patients to get access to experimental drugs.”

How’s that going?

JULY 2, 2018 –

Financial Times reports several U.S. drugmakers have raised their prices significantly:

  • The smoking cessation drug Chantix ”has gone up 17 percent this year.”
  • The multiple sclerosis drug Ampyra has been raised 9.5 percent, “taking a bottle of 60 to more than $3,000.”
  • The liver medication Ocaliva has been raised “7 percent to $263.48 per pill or nearly $8,000 for a pack of 30”

Read the Financial Times story here.

Short-Term Junk Plans

SHORT-TERM JUNK PLANS OFFER INADEQUATE MEDICAL COVERAGE AND CIRCUMVENT FUNDAMENTAL CONSUMER PROTECTIONS

Short-Term Plans May Exclude Coverage For Pre-Existing Conditions. “Policyholders who get sick may be investigated by the insurer to determine whether the newly-diagnosed condition could be considered pre-existing and so excluded from coverage.” [Kaiser Family Foundation, 2/9/18]

  • As Many As 130 Million Nonelderly Americans Have A Pre-Existing Condition. [Center for American Progress, 4/5/17]
  • 1 in 4 Children Would Be Impacted If Insurance Companies Could Deny Or Charge More Because Of A Pre-Existing Condition. [Center for American Progress, 4/5/17]

Short-Term Junk Plans Can Refuse To Cover Essential Health Benefits. “Typical short-term policies do not cover maternity care, prescription drugs, mental health care, preventive care, and other essential benefits, and may limit coverage in other ways.” [Kaiser Family Foundation, 2/9/18]

Under Many Short-Term Junk Plans, Benefits Are Capped At $1 Million Or Less. Short-term plans can impose lifetime and annual limits –  “for example, many policies cap covered benefits at $1 million or less.” [Kaiser Family Foundation, 2/9/18]

Commonwealth Fund: “Cost Sharing Designs In Short-Term Coverage Leave Members Facing Major, Unpredictable Financial Risk.” “The out-of-pocket maximum for each best-selling plan is higher than that allowed in individual or employer plans under the ACA, when adjusting for the shorter plan duration. When considering the deductible, the best-selling plans have out-of-pocket maximums ranging from $7,000 to $20,000 for just three months of coverage. In comparison, the ACA limits out-of-pocket maximums to $7,150 for the entire year.” [Commonwealth Fund, 8/11/17]

Short-Term Junk Plans Can Retroactively Cancel Coverage After Patients File Claims. “Individuals in STLDI plans would be at risk for rescission. Rescissions are retroactive cancellations of coverage, often occurring after individuals file claims due to medical necessity. While enrollees in ACA coverage cannot have their policy retroactively cancelled, enrollees in STLDI plans can.” [Wakely/ACAP, April 2018]

Short-Term Junk Plan Currently Being Sold In Thirteen States Does Not Cover Services For Patients Admitted To Hospital On The Weekend. “That brings us to the short-term plan marketed by UnitedHealth’s Golden Rule subsidiary….To begin with, the Golden Rule plan excludes pregnancy and provides for a lifetime maximum benefit of only $250,000. Remarkably, it won’t cover hospital room, board or nursing services for patients admitted to a hospital on a Friday or Saturday, unless for an emergency or for necessary surgery the next day.” [Los Angeles Times, 4/26/18]

JUNK COVERAGE PROVIDED BY SHORT-TERM PLANS LEAVES THOSE WHO GET SICK WITH THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN UNPAID BILLS

Atlanta Woman With Short-Term Plan Was Diagnosed With Cancer And Left With $400,000 Medical Bill.Dawn Jones…bought a short-term plan from Golden Rule Insurance, a unit of UnitedHealth Group Inc., so she’d be covered between jobs, according to court documents. Then, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Despite showing evidence she was unaware of the cancer when she bought the policy, the insurer didn’t pay for Jones’s treatment, leaving her with a $400,000 medical bill, according to a complaint she filed against the company in September 2016… the judge sided with Golden Rule and dismissed the case in August, finding the policy agreement clearly stated that preexisting conditions wouldn’t be covered, even if the customer was unaware of the condition. Jones wasn’t diagnosed until after she bought her policy.” [Bloomberg, 10/17/17]

San Antonio Man Paid Premiums To Short-Term Plan Company For Six Years, And Was Denied Coverage When He Developed Kidney Disease. “Pat’s decision to save some money by buying short-term insurance was a big mistake, says Karen Pollitz, project director of Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute and a leading expert on the individual-insurance market. ‘These short-term policies are a joke,’ she says. ‘Nobody should ever buy them. It is false security that is being sold. It’s junk.’ That’s because diagnosing and treating an illness may not fall neatly into six-month increments. While Pat had been continuously covered since 2002 by the same company, Assurant Health, each successive policy treated him as a brand-new customer. In looking back over Pat’s medical records, the company noticed test results from December, eight months earlier. Though Pat’s doctors didn’t determine the precise cause of the problem until the following July, his kidney disease was nonetheless judged a ‘pre-existing condition’ — meaning his insurance wouldn’t cover it, since he was now under a different six-month policy from the one he had when he got those first tests.” [Time, 3/5/09]

In San Francisco, Woman Was Hit With $150,000 Charge After Short-Term Health Plan Refused Coverage. “Grace Wood, an instructor at a university in San Francisco, bought a short-term plan in 2013. When she had to have a heart procedure, her insurer, HCC Life, balked, leaving her with roughly $150,000 in unpaid medical bills.” [New York Times, 11/30/17]

Short-Term Insurance Plan Refuses To Pay For Man’s Triple Bypass Surgery, Leaving Family With $900,000 In Bills. “One case pending in federal court involves Kevin Conroy, who had a heart attack in 2014 and underwent triple bypass surgery, just two months after his wife, Linda, obtained a short-term policy over the telephone. Their insurer, HHC Life, refused to pay the bills. ‘We freaked out,’ Ms. Conroy said. ‘What were we going to do? It was $900,000.’ The insurer informed the Conroys the policy was ‘rescinded,’ to use the industry jargon. “[New York Times, 11/30/17]

SUBPAR COVERAGE OFFERED BY SHORT-TERM PLANS RAISES HEALTH COSTS FOR CONSUMERS WHILE RAKING IN PROFITS FOR INSURANCE COMPANIES

Short-Term Health Plans Rake In Profits For Insurance Companies While Leaving Consumers Unprotected. “That’s why they make up such a high-profit portion of the insurance industry: They are largely designed to rake in premiums, even as they offer little in return. And even when they do pay for things, they often provide confusing or conflicting protocols for making claims. Collectively, short-term plans can leave thousands of people functionally uninsured or underinsured without addressing or lowering real systemwide costs.” [The Atlantic, 4/25/18]

More Premium Dollars Can Go Toward Profit, Rather Than Coverage With Short-Term Plans. Short-term plans do not have to follow the Medical Loss Ratio, meaning that more premium dollars gan go toward administration and profit than under other plans. For instance, the largest seller of short-term insurance only requires 50% of premium dollars to pay for medical coverage, much less than the 80% required by ACA-compliant plans. [Wakely/ACAP, April 2018]

Junk Plans Lead To Higher Premiums For Those Enrolled In Full Coverage Plans. “While recent state-level and federal proposals differ in the details, they’d have a similar result: People who buy skimpy plans would face staggering costs when they get sick, and consumers who want comprehensive coverage could face drastic premium increases.” [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2/5/18]

Short-Term Plans Divide Insurance Market Between Sick And Healthy. “Because short-term plans are not considered individual market coverage that must meet ACA standards, they can, and typically do, exclude coverage of pre-existing medical conditions, limit the amount of benefits that a person can receive from the plan in a year, and fail to include many of the essential health benefits, such as maternity care, mental health and substance-use disorder services, and prescription drugs…Short-term plans would be most likely to attract healthier people, leading to premium increases for ACA-compliant plans and destabilizing individual insurance markets across the nation.” [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 11/29/17]

Junk Plans Mean Higher Premiums For People With Pre-Existing Conditions. By promoting short-term policies, the administration is making a trade-off: lower premiums and less coverage for healthy people, and higher premiums for people with preexisting conditions who need more comprehensive coverage.” [Washington Post, 5/1/18]

JUNK PLANS DESTABILIZE THE INDIVIDUAL MARKET, DRIVING UP COSTS FOR MIDDLE CLASS FAMILIES

Gary Claxton, Kaiser Family Foundation Vice President: Short-Term Plans “Draw In Healthy People And Spit Them Back Into The Marketplace When They’re Sick.” “Short-term health plans, meanwhile, have the ability to charge sick people more than healthy people, to deny people with preexisting conditions, and kick people off the plans if they get sick. If federal agencies decided to lift the limits on the short-term plans, and to exempt people on them from the penalty for not buying health insurance, Obamacare’s individual market could become destabilized, Claxton says. Healthy people would join the short-term plans when they were healthy, stay on them for a year, and pay little for skimpier coverage. If they got sick, they would be kicked off those plans and onto the Obamacare exchanges, where coverage is expansive but prices would be higher than they are now.” [The Atlantic, 10/12/17]

Tim Jost, Health Law Expert: Short Term Health Plans Provide Subpar Coverage and Destabilize Market. “As their name suggests, short-term plans provide coverage for a limited period of time, often six months or less. They generally don’t cover such things as preexisting conditions, maternity services or prescription drugs. The policies typically have maximum coverage limits of about $1 million. Insurers can turn people down if they’re sick and may decide not to renew someone’s policy… ‘The big health insurance companies are really mixed on this,’ said Timothy Jost, emeritus professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law and an expert on the health law. ‘They see this as a seriously destabilizing force in the market, this crap coverage.’” [Kaiser Health News, 1/31/17]

When Healthy Individuals Opt For Short-Term Plans, Costs Go Up For Those Who Are Sick. To the extent that healthy individuals opt for cheaper short-term policies instead of ACA-compliant plans, such adverse selection contributes to instability in the reformed non-group market and raises the cost of coverage for people who have health conditions.” [Kaiser Family Foundation, 2/9/18]

Larry Levitt, Kaiser Family Foundation Senior Vice President: Short-Term Plans Will Raise Premiums for Middle Class Families. “‘The repeal of the mandate and expansion of association health plans and the rise of short-term plans will certainly send premiums rising for middle-class people with pre-existing conditions whose only option is the [ObamaCare]-regulated market,’ said Larry Levitt, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.” [The Hill, 1/7/18]

KEY HEALTH INSURANCE STAKEHOLDERS WARN AGAINST SHORT-TERM PLANS

98 Percent Of Health Groups That Submitted Comments To HHS Have Serious Concerns About The Short-Term Proposal.  “More than 98% — or 335 of 340 — of the healthcare groups that commented on the proposal to loosen restrictions on short-term health plans criticized it, in many cases warning that the rule could gravely hurt sick patients.” [Los Angeles Times, 5/30/18]

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network: “Health Care Changes Could Leave Millions Of Cancer Patients And Survivors Unable To Access Meaningful Coverage.” “Today’s executive order jeopardizes the ability of millions of cancer patients, survivors and those at risk for the disease from being able to access or afford meaningful health insurance. Exempting an entire set of health plans from covering essential health benefits like prescription drugs or specialty care and allowing expansion and renewability of bare-bones short-term plans will split the insurance market. If younger and healthier people leave the market, people with serious illnesses like cancer will be left facing higher and higher premiums with few, if any, insurance choices.  Moreover, those who purchase cheap plans are likely to discover their coverage is inadequate when an unexpected health crisis happens leaving them financially devastated and costing the health care system more overall.” [ACS CAN, 10/12/17]

Blue Cross Blue Shield Officials Worry Short-Term Health Plans “Could Really Weaken The Efforts To Stabilize The Marketplace.” “Short-term plans can turn away people with pre-existing conditions, place caps on how much they’ll cover, and decline to cover services like maternity care. All of which means they could siphon healthy consumers out of the ACA’s marketplaces. ‘It could really weaken the efforts to stabilize the marketplace,’ says Kris Haltmeyer, BCBSA’s vice president of legislative and regulatory policy.” [Axios, 2/6/18]

American Academy of Family Physicians: STLD Plans Would Destabilize Individual Market. “We are troubled by how the proposed rule would further destabilize the individual market by drawing young, healthy people away from meaningful, comprehensive coverage…under the proposed rule, insurers could reduce or eliminate certain EHBs to avoid vulnerable, expensive patients by excluding specific services.” [Letter to HHS, 4/18/18]

ACS CAN: Short-Term Plans Are Exempt From Important Consumer Protections. “We are very concerned about policies that would expand access to STLD policies because these products are exempt from important consumer protections, such as prohibitions on lifetime and annual dollar limits, limits on the use of pre-existing condition exclusions, and the prohibition on medical underwriting…We are afraid that some consumers choose to enroll in STLD policies simply because of the lower premium and are unaware of the limitations of the coverage.” [ACS CAN letter to HHS, 4/20/18]

Alliance of Community Health Plans: Concerned It Will Leave Consumers With Fewer Coverage Options “ACHP is also concerned that the proposed rule will cause more insurers to flee the market, leaving consumers with fewer coverage options.” [Letter to HHS, 4/19/18]

American College of Rheumatology: Short-Term Plans Will Hurt Patients With Rheumatoid Arthritis. “We urge the agencies to consider how healthy individuals leaving the exchanges to purchase STLDI plans would affect market stability and premiums for those still in the health exchange. Potentially, our patients with diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis could see an upward swing in their premiums, causing further affordability and access issues” [American College of Rheumatology, 4/23/18]

AHIP: Short-Term Plans Should Not Be Offered As Replacement For Comprehensive Coverage.  “‘We recommend that short-term plans should not be offered as a full replacement for comprehensive coverage,’ AHIP says — because that could pull healthy customers out of the market for ACA coverage.” [Axios, 4/23/18]

Dr. David O. Barbe, president of American Medical Association: These Plans Would Result In “Inadequate Health Insurance Coverage.” “We believe the proposed rule, however, would culminate in plans being offered that fall far short of maintaining crucial state and federal patient protections, disrupt and destabilize the individual health insurance markets, and result in substandard, inadequate health insurance coverage.” [Forbes, 4/22/18]

Margaret Murray, CEO of Association for Community Affiliated Plans: Short Term Plans “strip every provision that might be of value to a patient.” “Not only do STLDI plans not cover pre-existing conditions, but what was covered when you bought the plan can be excluded three months later when you try to renew the plan. Rescissions are rampant in the STLDI market, leading to retroactive cancellation of policies that stick patients with enormous medical bills.” [Washington Examiner, 4/26/18]

Mario Molina, Former CEO of Molina Healthcare: Hopefully You Already Had Kids, Because Short-Term Plans Gut Maternity Care. “Hopefully, you had kids already, because under the short-term health plan expansion encouraged by an executive order signed last year, covered maternity care vanishes in 100% of plans analyzed by [the Kaiser Family Foundation]” [Mario Molina, 4/23/18]

California Department Of Insurance: “Trump Executive Order Will Create A Health Insurance Race To The Bottom.” “Increased sale of short-term policies that don’t cover essential health care needs or comply with most rules that apply to health insurance will harm consumers and create health insurance market instability.” [CDI, 10/12/17]

Sandy Praeger, Former Republican State Insurance Regulator In Kansas And Onetime President Of National Association Of Insurance Commissioners: “Basically anybody who knows anything about healthcare is opposed to these proposals.” [Los Angeles Times, 5/30/18]

CMS Report Confirms GOP Sabotage

Washington, D.C.  – Today, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a trends report about last year’s open enrollment period, which saw decreased enrollment and rising premiums. Protect Our Care Executive Director Brad Woodhouse released the following statement in response:

“Today’s report confirms that Republican sabotage is directly responsible for rising premiums and fewer Americans obtaining health insurance, outcomes which were entirely avoidable. From the day he took office Donald Trump has worked with Congressional Republicans to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, and nowhere was this more evident than last year’s open enrollment period. The Administration cut in half the number of days people could sign up for coverage; reduced the outreach budget by ninety percent; and used funding to boost open enrollment to launch a propaganda campaign against the ACA. All told, these actions reduced enrollment by more than one million people – and as we look toward next year’s open enrollment period, the Trump Administration has already dramatically cut in-person assistance to help people sign up for 2018 health coverage, and we can expect more of the same. Unfortunately, it is the American people who will once again be left to suffer.”

BACKGROUND:

  • In April, the Trump Administration cut the number of days people could sign up for coverage during open enrollment by half, from 90 days to 45 days.
  • In July, the Trump Administration used funding intended to support health insurance enrollment to launch a multimedia propaganda campaign against the Affordable Care Act.
  • In August, the Administration cut the outreach advertising budget for Open Enrollment by 90 percent, from $100 million to just $10 million – which resulted in as many as 1.1 million fewer people getting covered.
  • In September, the Administration ordered the Department of Health and Human Services’ regional directors to stop participating in Open Enrollment events. Mississippi Health Advocacy Program Executive Director Roy Mitchell says, “I didn’t call it sabotage…But that’s what it is.”
  • In October, the Trump Administration dramatically cut in-person assistance to help people sign up for 2018 health coverage.
  • Last week, it was reported that the Trump Administration proposed further massive cuts for health insurance navigators.