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Sabotage: Elected Officials, Stakeholders, Experts Pan Anti-Consumer Provisions in Trump Administration Marketplace Rule

By April 10, 2018No Comments

Washington, D.C. – Consumer advocates spoke out quickly and loudly after the Trump Administration announced a final Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters rule for plans offered through the Affordable Care Act’s individual marketplaces that will weaken benefits for millions of Americans, put those with pre-existing conditions at risk, and make it even harder for people to sign up for coverage – all while lining insurance company pockets through reduced review of rate hikes and overhead:

Elected Officials

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR): “Instead of taking steps to prevent big premium increases this fall, the Trump Administration is watering down your health care and making it harder to get coverage. Projections already showed double digit premiums increases this year due to the Trump Administration’s attacks on families’ health care, and today’s new rules pour gasoline on the fire.” [4/9/18]

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA): “With this new rule, President Trump has issued an open invitation for insurance companies to raise premiums, skirt patient protections, and undermine families’ care. I’m very concerned about what these dramatic, harmful changes in policy could mean for women who don’t want to pay more than men for health care, for people with pre-existing conditions, for those struggling with mental illness and substance use, and for millions of peoples’ health costs. Republicans in Congress should join Democrats in condemning the President Trump’s latest politically-motivated effort to raise families’ costs and create health care chaos.” [4/9/18]

Stakeholders & Experts

Andy Slavitt, Former Acting CMS Administrator: “Andy Slavitt, who was acting CMS administrator during the Obama administration’s final two years, countered that the current administration ‘is making it clear that they’re implementing a law that they have no intention of making succeed.’ Slavitt called the revisions ‘a gift to the insurance companies by finding lots of ways for them to get around the standards Americans have come to expect.’” [Washington Post, 4/9/18]

Sam Berger, Senior Adviser, Center for American Progress: “This rule reduces protections for people with pre-existing conditions, increases the cost of health coverage, and makes it harder for consumers to sign up for coverage. This past year has shown just how much consumers value quality, affordable health care, but rather than encourage awareness, lower prices, and promote market stability, the administration is more concerned with trying to undermine the law. This is just the latest example of the Trump administration putting its ideological crusade against the Affordable Care Act ahead of the health and well-being of the American people.” [4/9/18]

Avalere: “The final NBPP … allows for greater essential health benefit flexibility, which could lead to less generous benefits and worse access for consumers.” [4/9/18]

Matt Eyles, Incoming President and CEO, America’s Health Insurance Plans: “When you think about things like the individual mandate going away, some of the other proposed rules that are being put in place, whether it be around association plans, short-term policies — it’s just still a nasty soup right now that’s brewing… We’re looking ahead to 2019, and it’s not a really great picture right now, but I know a lot of companies are committed to the market.” [Washington Times, 4/10/18]

U.S. PIRG: “Together, these changes will make it easier for health insurance companies to raise rates and reduce the value of health coverage for consumers. This is a big step in the wrong direction.” [4/9/18]

AFT Nurses and Health Professionals: “CMS gives states more power to cut health benefits, more profits to insurance companies, with fewer safeguards for coverage.” [4/10/18]

How It Played In The Headlines

Wall Street Journal: Trump Administration Allows States to Narrow ACA Coverage

Reuters: Trump administration issues rule further watering down Obamacare

Washington Post: Trump administration rewrites ACA insurance rules to give more power to states

Washington Examiner: Trump administration releases new ways for states to skirt Obamacare rules

News Coverage Details Rule’s 529 Pages of Sabotage

Wall Street Journal: “Trump Administration Allows States to Narrow ACA Coverage.” “The Trump administration will give states leeway to winnow down the mandatory health benefits guaranteed to consumers who buy Affordable Care Act insurance plans, under a rule issued Monday… The changes to the ACA plans reflect the administration’s goal of dismantling former President Barack Obama’s signature health law and transferring more health-policy decisions to the states. Democrats and some consumer groups denounced the rule as another effort by the administration to undermine the ACA. They have said that weakening the scope of the benefits offered in ACA plans will hurt consumers by reducing coverage. The new rule will ‘undermine protections for people with pre-existing conditions with a race-to-the-bottom approach that fundamentally undermines the Affordable Care Act’s essential health-benefit coverage guarantee,’ said Brad Woodhouse, campaign director of Protect Our Care, a group that is an advocate for the ACA.” [Wall Street Journal, 4/9/18]

CNN: “The New Rule Is The Latest Effort By The Administration To Undermine The Affordable Care Act.” “The new rule is the latest effort by the administration to undermine the Affordable Care Act. Earlier this year, it proposed rules that would allow insurers to sell short-term insurance plans, which last just under a year but don’t have to comply with Obamacare’s regulations, and to make it easier for small businesses to band together to offer coverage that doesn’t adhere to all of the health reform law’s mandates. Both of these options could have lower premiums, but also cover fewer benefits.” [CNN, 4/9/18]

Health Care Dive: “The Sweeping Rule Is Just The Latest In The Trump Administration’s Steady Chipping Away” At The ACA. “The sweeping rule is just the latest in the Trump administration’s steady chipping away at the landmark health law, which has been coupled with a move to give states more control over their healthcare regulations. The administration cut off cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers in October, sparking backlash from payers. The Republican tax bill last year repealed the individual mandate penalty starting in 2019. And more is on the way. In February, the administration released a proposed rule to expand short-term health insurance availability, bumping up the allowance of coverage to 12 months. It is also promoting association health plans, which aren’t required to meet the EHB requirements or protect people with pre-existing conditions. The ACA requires payers to cover at least 10 specific benefits, including maternity care and prescription drugs.” [Health Care Dive, 4/9/18]

Reuters: “This Could Lead To Less Generous Coverage.” “The Trump administration took additional steps to weaken Obamacare on Monday, allowing U.S. states to relax the rules on what insurers must cover and giving states more power to regulate their individual insurance markets. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a final rule that allows states to select essential health benefits that must be covered by individual insurance plans sold under former President Barack Obama’s healthcare law. The 2010 Affordable Care Act requires coverage of 10 benefits, including maternity and newborn care and prescription drugs. Under the new rule, states can select from a much larger list which benefits insurers must cover. That could lead to less generous coverage in some states, according to Avalere Health, a research and consulting firm. [Reuters, 4/9/18]

Reuters: “Insurers Could Also Have An Easier Time Raising Their Rates Under The New Rule.” “Insurers could also have an easier time raising their rates under the new rule. Obamacare mandated that premium rate increases of 10 percent or more in the individual market be scrutinized by state regulators to ensure that they are necessary and reasonable. The new CMS rule raises that threshold to 15 percent.” [Reuters, 4/9/18]

CNN: The Rules “Make It Easier For Insurers To Spend Less Of The Premiums They Collect On Policyholders And Put More Toward Profits.” “The rule also allows states to make it easier for insurers to spend less of the premiums they collect on policyholders and put more toward profits and administrative costs. And the administration raised the default threshold that trigger state reviews of insurers’ proposed rate hikes to 15%, up from 10%.” [CNN, 4/9/18]

Washington Post: New Rules “Will Enable States To Allow Future Doctors Visits [Or Cover] Fewer Prescription Drugs.” “One of the most significant changes involves a set of 10 essential health benefits that the ACA requires of health plans sold through the federal insurance marketplace and separate state marketplaces. The new rules will not jettison any of the categories but will enable states to allow fewer doctors visits, for example, or to cover fewer prescription drugs.” [Washington Post, 4/9/18]

Washington Post: “The Government Will No Longer Require That Insurers Provide A Standardized Set Of Benefits, Urged By The Obama Administration As A Way To Help Consumers Comparison Shop.” “In another change, the government is turning over to the 39 states that rely on the federal insurance exchange,, responsibility for ensuring that marketplace plans have enough doctors and other providers of care in their networks. Similarly, the government no longer will require that insurers provide a standardized set of benefits, urged by the Obama administration as a way to help consumers comparison shop. [Washington Post, 4/9/18]

Washington Post: “In A Sharp Shift, The New Rules Further Weaken The Network Of Consumer Assisters.” “In ways both subtle and substantial, many of the past years’ rules were upgrades to help consumers with prices, benefits and shopping for coverage. Under a change effective in 2016, any insurer wanting to raise its premiums by 10 percent or more has been required to disclose the increase with a justification. Insurers also have had to publish up-to-date lists on drugs, including tiers of coverage and any restrictions on consumers’ ability to get them. The rules for 2017 started a rating system for the number of doctors and other providers in plans’ networks, so that customers could better compare marketplace insurers in areas that offer a choice. In a sharp shift, the new rules further weaken the network of consumer assisters, known as navigators, whose funding the Department of Health and Human Services slashed last year. The rules remove the requirement that every area has at least two navigator groups and that one be local.” [Washington Post, 4/9/18]

Washington Post: Insurers No Longer Must Devote 80 Percent Of Income To Customers’ Care. “In addition, insurers no longer will be required to devote 80 percent of their income to customers’ care, if they can show that a higher profile would improve their financial stability.” [Washington Post, 4/9/18]

The Hill: Ruling Gives Flexibility For States “To Change The Essential Health Benefits.” “Other changes announced Monday include additional flexibility for states to change the Essential Health Benefits, the list of health services that insurance plans must cover.” [The Hill, 4/9/18]

Washington Examiner: New Rules “Ease The Requirements” Plans Must Cover. “The new rules would ease the requirements on the health benefits that plans must cover, as well as quality control. Critics say the new rule will allow insurers to charge higher prices and skirt patient protections… The agency also is changing the requirements for how much money an insurer must provide toward medical services and quality improvement. Obamacare requires insurers to spend 80 percent of the money it takes in from premiums on health costs and quality improvements and 20 percent on administrative overhead or marketing. CMS would allow a state to change that ratio based on certain factors.” [Washington Examiner, 4/9/18]

Associated Press: “One Of The Ways To [Lower Costs] Is By Cutting Back On Benefits.” “The administration is under pressure from Republican-led states to reduce the cost of health insurance for consumers buying their own policies. One of the ways to do that is by cutting back on benefits.” [AP, 4/9/18]