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NBPP Archives — Protect Our Care

“Higher Costs And More People Being Uninsured” How Trump’s Latest ACA Sabotage Targets Consumers

Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act’s benefit and payment parameters that would raise costs and reduce coverage for millions of Americans. On top of reducing subsidies available to those who purchase health care through the exchange and increasing premiums, the Trump administration’s proposed rule changes would also raise the out-of-pocket maximum for people with employer-sponsored health care.

Here’s what news outlets have to say about the proposed changes:

Axios: Consumers Would Pay More Under New ACA Rules. “Turns out the Trump administration’s big ACA regulation packs a bit more punch than we realized at first. Some of the rule’s technical changes will end up requiring people to pay more for their coverage, while rolling back the cost of federal premium subsidies, my colleague Sam Baker reports…The federal government would end up spending about $900 million less on premium subsidies, according to the proposed regulation. The same change would also slightly loosen limits on out-of-pocket costs. The ACA capped total out-of-pocket spending at $8,000 per year for an individual and $16,000 per year for a family plan.  The Trump proposal would raise those caps by $200 and $400, respectively, according to Brookings’ Matt Fiedler. That change would apply to people who get coverage through their jobs, not just the ACA’s insurance markets.” [Axios, 1/22/19]

Wall Street Journal: Trump’s Proposed ACA Rules Could Lift Costs For Millions Of People. “The Trump administration on Thursday proposed changes that could raise health insurance costs for millions of Americans who get coverage on the job or receive subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, a move that Republicans said is necessary to cut inflated subsidies but Democrats viewed as another GOP effort to sabotage the health law. The proposal, released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, would raise the out-of-pocket maximum that people with employer-sponsored coverage pay in 2020. The individual maximum would increase by $200 to $8,200 annually, and the maximum for family coverage would increase by $400, analysts said. The plan would also change a calculation that determines how much people pay if they buy insurance from the ACA exchange and get credits to reduce their monthly premiums. The change could raise premiums next year for many of the roughly 9 million people who get the credit.” [Wall Street Journal, 1/17/19]

Los Angeles Times: Despite The Government Shutdown, Trump’s Efforts To Gut Obamacare Go Full Speed Ahead. “A good portion of the federal government may be shut down, but you can rest assured that the devoted Obamacare saboteurs at the Department of Health and Human Services are on the job. Late Thursday, they released proposed rule changes for the 2020 health insurance year — and requests for comments on further changes — that will drive up premiums for people on Affordable Care Act health plans, cut subsidies and discourage more Americans from enrolling. The proposals also could raise prescription costs for enrollees and raise costs even for families enrolled in employer plans. Longer-term changes proposed for 2021 and beyond could affect about 2 million ACA enrollees.” [Los Angeles Times, Hiltzik, 1/18/19]

Associated Press: White House Proposes To Increase Affordable Care Act Premiums. “The Trump administration Thursday announced proposed rule changes that would lead to a modest premium increase next year under the Affordable Care Act, potentially handing Democrats a new presidential-year health care issue. The roughly 1 percent increase could feed into the Democratic argument that the Trump administration is trying to ‘sabotage’ coverage for millions. The administration said the proposal is intended to improve the accuracy of a complex formula that affects what consumers pay for their premiums. Premiums under the health law were basically stable this year after several sharp annual hikes.”  [Associated Press, 1/17/19]

Politico: CMS Wants To Reduce Obamacare Subsidies Through Formula Change. “The administration is proposing a technical change in the 2020 marketplace rules that is expected to result in less premium assistance for low-income Obamacare customers, POLITICO’s Paul Demko reports…A decrease in financial assistance of $900 million and 100,000 fewer Obamacare customers in 2020 if the proposal is adopted, according to CMS. The agency is justifying the change as a way to reduce big increases in federal subsidies that resulted from the Trump administration’s decision to cut off cost-sharing reduction payments.” [Politico, 1/18/19]

Buzzfeed News: Administration’s Proposed Rule Would “Result In Higher Premiums And More People Being Uninsured.” “The Trump administration revealed this week that it could try to take one more shot at weakening the Affordable Care Act’s individual markets before the end of Trump’s first term. A request for comment on a proposed rule change posted late Thursday contemplates a series of changes that would save the government $1 billion per year or more, but result in higher premiums and more people being uninsured…But now the administration is signaling it may try to end silver loading. Doing this on its own would lead to a major jump in premium costs and could badly destabilize the markets. The administration says it wants to kill silver loading in concert with Congress voting to bring back the old subsidies. However, Congress has so far shown a complete inability to come together to pass a bill to improve the Obamacare markets. The administration did not specifically say it will act without Congress, but it did so with premiums in the past and is asking for feedback on how it should ‘address’ the issue of silver loading.” [Buzzfeed News, 1/18/19]

CMS Proposal is the Trump Administration’s Latest Act Of Health Care Sabotage

The Payment Notice Cuts Premium Tax Credits By $1 Billion Annually, Slashes Coverage, Increases Out-Of-Pocket Costs, And Puts People With Pre-existing Conditions At Risk

 

Last night, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued the proposed annual Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters (NBPP) for the 2020 benefit year, which outlines regulatory and financial guidelines applicable to exchange plans. The proposal from CMS would do the following:

  • Cut premium tax credits by $1 billion per year ($900M in 2020 and 2021, $1 billion in 2022 and 2023)
  • Cause 100,000 people to lose marketplace coverage annually starting in 2020
  • Increase annual premiums by $189 for a family of four at 300 percent of poverty
  • Increase the maximum out-of-pocket costs by $400 for a family (from $16,000 without the change to $16,400 with it) and $200 for an individual (from $8,000 annually to $8,200 annually).

“Despite the lessons of the 2018 midterm elections, the Trump administration is continuing its relentless efforts to sabotage health care for millions of Americans,” said Leslie Dach, chair of Protect Our Care. “They want to increase premiums, put protections for people with pre-existing conditions further at risk, and rip affordable coverage from countless Americans. It’s time they start improving our health care and stop ripping it apart.”

Here’s a look at what the Administration’s proposal would mean for people across the country, according to health care experts and CMS itself:

The Payment Notice Means Higher Premiums, Less In Subsides, And A Drop In Enrollment. “The Trump administration estimates that their proposed change to how ACA premium subsidies are calculated would increase consumer premiums by $181 million and decrease marketplace enrollment by 100,000. As a result, the government would save $900 million.” [Larry Levitt, 1/17/19]

The Provisions Of The Payment Notice Would Reduce Americans’ Premium Tax Credits By Roughly $1 Billion Annually, Leading A Family Of Four At 300 Percent Of The Federal Poverty Line To Pay $189 More Annually. As Matt Fielder, Fellow at the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy concludes: “In dollar terms, single person at 300% of FPL would lose $92/year in [premium tax credits]; family of four at 300% of FPL would lose $189/year in [premium tax credits]. Smaller effects at lower income levels and larger effects at higher income levels. In the aggregate, CMS Actuary estimates proposed change would result in $900m less in tax credit payments and 100,000 fewer Marketplace enrollees in 2020.” [Matt Fiedler, 1/17/19]

The Rules Would Also Increase The Maximum Out Of Pocket Costs In All Private Insurance Plans, By $200 For Individuals And $400 For A Family. “A technical change proposed by the Trump administration would result in maximum consumer out-of-pocket costs in all private insurance plans going up to $8,200 per person in 2020 instead of $8,000. To be clear, either amount is out of reach for many people.” The rule would also increase the maximum out of pocket costs for families from $16,000 to $16,400. [Larry Levitt, 1/17/19; Centers on Medicare And Medicaid Services, 1/17/19

100,000 People Would Lose Marketplace Coverage Each Year Beginning In 2020. [CMS, 1/17/19]

The Administration Has Also Invited Public Comment On Two Parameters — Eliminating Silver-Loading And Automatic Reenrollment. “One change the Trump administration is inviting comment on could eliminate automatic renewal of ACA marketplace coverage and premium subsidies. This year 1.8 million people were automatically re-enrolled in states using the federal marketplace. Another change the Trump administration is inviting comment on could eliminate “silver loading,” where insurers increased premiums for silver plans to offset the termination of cost-sharing subsidy payments to those insurers by the administration. Prohibiting “silver loading” of premiums in the ACA marketplace would lower government costs, but it would increase out-of-pocket premiums for many subsidized enrollees and also increase premiums for middle-class consumers not eligible for subsidies.” [Larry Levitt, 1/17/19]

Andy Slavitt, Former Head Of CMS: “Undermining Obamacare Is The Only Conceivable Reason To Dismantle [Auto-reenrollment].” “Auto reenrollment is simple. It means that like most employer coverage, if you forget to sign up for coverage, yours won’t get taken away. With auto-reenrollment, you can still reject coverage by not paying the bill. 1.8 million use it every year to keep continuous coverage. What happens if it’s taken away? You forget to sign up by 12/15. Get a cancer diagnosis in January. Not covered. With auto-[reenrollment], covered. It’s already automated, and how people are used to operating. Undermining Obamacare is the only conceivable reason to dismantle this.” [Andy Slavitt, 1/17/19]

The Payment Notice Allows States To Select An Essential Health Benefits (EHB) Package Used By Another State, Making EHBs More Flexible And Making It Easier For States To Not Cover All Of The Needs Of People With Pre-existing Conditions. “In the 2019 Payment Notice, we finalized options for states to select new EHB benchmark plans starting with the 2020 benefit year. Under 45 CFR 156.111, a state may modify its EHB-benchmark plan by: (1) Selecting the EHB-benchmark plan that another state used for the 2017 plan year; (2) Replacing one or more EHB categories of benefits in its EHB-benchmark plan used for the 2017 plan year with the same categories of benefits from another state’s EHB-benchmark plan used for the 2017 plan year; or (3) Otherwise selecting a set of benefits that would become the state’s EHB-benchmark plan.” [CMS, 1/17/19]

Legislators are calling the changes out for what they are: sabotage.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ranking Member Of Senate Finance Committee: “Today’s Proposed Rule Deliberately And Needlessly Increases Premiums And Will Result In Too Many Americans Losing Coverage.” “Trump’s health care sabotage agenda is defined by higher premiums for families and bureaucratic barriers that make it harder to find health coverage. Today’s proposed rule deliberately and needlessly increases premiums and will result in too many Americans losing access to health coverage. It’s no wonder Americans are so fed up with America’s health care system when the Trump administration continues to fan the flames of uncertainty while families pick up the check.” [Wyden Statement, 1/17/19]

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member Of The Senate Health, Education, Labor, And Pensions (HELP) Committee: “Even 27 Days Into The Shutdown He Caused, President Trump Has Somehow Found Time To Further Sabotage Health Care For Patients, Families, And Women.” “Even 27 days into the shutdown he caused, President Trump has somehow found time to further sabotage health care for patients, families, and women — this time by proposing what would amount to a health care tax on patients and families across the country. President Trump is hurting families left and right and Democrats are going to keep holding him accountable.” [Murray Statement, 1/17/19