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Maryland Archives — Protect Our Care

Medicaid Expansion, Junk Plan Bans, and a Law to Shore Up the Marketplace: the ACA Has a Banner Week in the States

While congressional Republicans and their cheerleaders, like former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, are on the verge of making another run at health care repeal, legislators and everyday citizens in states across the country this week took actions to expand health care access and shore up their marketplaces. Here’s what happened this week, from Virginia to California:

In Virginia, the state Senate joined with the House of Delegates, sending a measure to expand Medicaid to Gov. Ralph Northam to sign into law. The expansion will extend health insurance to 400,000 Virginians.

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Virginia Set To Expand Medicaid As Senate And House Back Budget Deal. “Six years after the U.S. Supreme Court left the decision to states on whether to expand their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act, Virginia is about to extend health care coverage to hundreds of thousands of Virginians without it… [Republican State Senators Ben Chafin and Jill Vogel] defended their decisions as necessary to invest in core public services, while expanding health coverage to people who need it and the hospitals that provide it. ‘I came to the conclusion that ‘no’ just wasn’t an answer anymore,’ he said.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/31]

In New Jersey, the legislature acted to stabilize the state’s insurance marketplace by implementing a state-level individual mandate, following in the footsteps of Maryland, which passed stabilization measures last month. Congressional Republicans repealed the federal mandate in December’s tax bill, which, combined with the Trump Administration’s short-term plan regulations, had been projected to increase premiums in New Jersey by nearly 11%.

NJ.com: Phil Murphy Signs Law Protecting Obamacare From Trump With N.J. Mandate To Have Health Insurance. “Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday signed a law preserving a critical yet controversial part of the Affordable Care Act that President Donald Trump’s administration repealed last year… State Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, one of the prime sponsors of the law, said keeping the mandate ‘was needed to maintain a foundation for the insurance market and to allow the success of the ACA to continue.’ Trump’s actions ‘will usher in an era of higher health insurance costs for everyone and lower health coverage rates. We want to protect New Jersey from the negative impact,’ said state Sen. Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, also a sponsor. About 800,000 people obtained insurance coverage under the law — 500,000 through Medicaid and about 300,000 through a commercial plan.” [NJ.com, 5/30]

In Illinois, the state legislature is expected to implement a six-month limit on the Administration’s proposed short-term junk plans, restoring them to their original intention and protecting Illinoisans’ health and the state’s insurance marketplace. The move follows similar legislative actions in Hawaii and California, which is considering banning short-term plans entirely.

Chicago Tribune: Illinois Groups Push To Restrict Short-term Insurance, As Trump Administration Seeks To Expand It. “Dozens of Illinois advocacy groups, under the umbrella of the Protect Our Care Coalition, are supporting a bill that would impose a six-month limit on the use of short-term insurance plans — coverage originally meant to serve as a stopgap for consumers between health insurance plans, such as people changing jobs who can’t afford continued coverage under a previous employer’s plan or students taking a semester off school… Short-term plans can leave consumers in a lurch because they often don’t cover things like maternity care, pre-existing conditions, mental health or prescription medications. In addition to the six-month time limit, the bill would require warnings about what the plans do not cover to be read aloud to consumers buying the plans or featured on websites where they’re sold. The state Senate on Friday unanimously passed the bill.” [Chicago Tribune, 5/25]

Speaking of Medicaid expansion, Utah and Idaho both advanced ballot measures to expand Medicaid, too:

The Hill: Medicaid Expansion Qualifies For Ballot In Utah. “A measure to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare in Utah will appear on the ballot in November after it was certified as having enough signatures. Liberal groups hailed the announcement from the state’s lieutenant governor as they hope to make the deep-red state the 33rd to expand the health insurance program for the poor under the health law. Medicaid expansion would extend coverage to about 150,000 people in the state.” [The Hill, 5/30]

Associated Press: Medicaid Expansion Moves Closer To Possible Referendum. “A Medicaid expansion proposal has passed the signature threshold, officials confirmed on Thursday, but said further review is needed before it gets on the November ballot. Ada County Chief Deputy Clerk Phil McGrane says county clerks across the state have verified roughly 58,000 signatures that organizers submitted earlier this month.” [US News & World Report, 5/24]

In Maine, the Bangor Daily News Editorial Board called for the legislature to fund the state’s Medicaid expansion, which passed overwhelmingly in a referendum last fall:

Bangor Daily News: Lawmakers Must Fund Medicaid Expansion, Which Is The Law, ‘Not A Suggestion.’ “By expanding Medicaid, Maine will make insurance coverage available to as many as 80,000 Mainers. These are people who work but can’t afford health insurance or their employer doesn’t offer it. They are not poor enough or do not have a disability to qualify for Medicaid without an expansion. Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government covers 90 percent of the cost. Maine is estimated to receive more than $525 million per year for a state investment of about $55 million annually, beginning in 2021, the first full year of implementation. Expanding Medicaid means thousands of Mainers who don’t have insurance will be able to access preventative care, vaccinations, addiction treatment, counseling and other needed care. It will also help stabilize the state’s hospitals, many of which are struggling financially.” [Bangor Daily News, 5/31]

And in Alabama, Jim Carnes, Policy Director of Alabama Rise, eloquently made the case for Medicaid expansion in an op-ed published by the Anniston Star:

Anniston Star: Expanding Medicaid Would Improve Alabama’s Health, Budgets And Economy. “The new Urban Institute report estimates that 314,000 Alabamians would enroll in Medicaid if Alabama extended eligibility to low-income workers. That would mean an additional $1.54 billion in federal funding surging into Alabama’s economy each year under the 9-to-1 federal match rate. It also would mean rural hospitals – like the one in Jacksonville that announced in May that it plans to close – would no longer be bleeding red ink through services to uninsured patients… In any other industry, the prospect of such gains would have political candidates of all stripes blowing trumpets and leading parades. And those other economic development plans wouldn’t have the added advantage that this one brings: giving people a new lease on life by helping them get the health care they need. Isn’t it time we broke the partisan gridlock on the coverage gap? Isn’t it time we demanded that anyone seeking to lead our state offer a vision of a healthier Alabama – and a path to getting there?” [Anniston Star, 5/29]

So while President Trump continued peddling lies about health care in Washington, D.C., states across the country continued the work of expanding health care access to hundreds of thousands of Americans. The ACA remains the law of the land, and its staying power shows it has become woven into the fabric of our nation’s health care system.

Maryland Insurance Companies, Citing Trump Health Care Sabotage, Plan to Raise Rates Again this Fall

Washington, D.C. – As preliminary Maryland 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 Campaign 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 Maryland 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 Marylanders.”

From the Insurers:

Kaiser Permanente: Proposed Rates Reflect “The Impact Of Eliminating The Individual Mandate Penalty.” “Kaiser Permanente’s proposed 2019 rates for Maryland Health Insurance Exchange members represent our efforts to ensure we can sustain and deliver high-quality health care for all our members over the long term.” the insurer said in a statement. “These proposed rates reflect the expected costs of providing coverage for these members, including the impact of eliminating the individual mandate penalty.” [Baltimore Sun, 5/7]

Why Marylanders’ 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 Maryland 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 Maryland, 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.

Despite Republican Sabotage, the Affordable Care Act Has Improved Marylanders’ Care.

  • 153,584 Marylanders signed up for Marketplace coverage this year.
  • Thanks to the Marketplace and Medicaid expansion, Maryland’s uninsured rate fell by 6 percent between 2013 and 2016 as Marylanders have gained access to affordable coverage.
  • Before today’s announcement, the Urban Institute predicted that Maryland premiums for 2019 could rise 18.4 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 79 percent of Maryland Marketplace consumers, whose average 2018 premium is $131 per month.
  • But because of the Republican sabotage agenda, many middle-income Marylanders could pay hundreds or thousands of dollars more than they would have otherwise.

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 Maryland by an average 18.4 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.

KEY QUOTES

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]

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]

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]

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. [Garin Poll, 9/5/17]