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In a previous CMA Alert we highlighted a statement reportedly made by CMS Administrator Seema Verma that she took “exception to those out there who have made claims that we have tried to sabotage the health care of the American people, particularly when it comes to the health-care exchanges…” We listed actions taken prior to that statement that we believe undermined the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the stability of the Exchanges.

Here are a few new examples that must, unfortunately, be added to our previous Sabotage list:

  • In a hearing on Capitol Hill, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Azar defended the Administration’s proposal on junk plans. Azar is quoted as saying “…expanding short-term health plans will not harm the insurance marketplace.” He also stated that “People are not going to be leaving subsidized insurance,” even as repeated studies show the opposite to be true.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) sided with the states that are suing the federal government over the constitutionality of the ACA and will not be defending it against the lawsuit. DOJ actually argued against provisions of the ACA that guarantee coverage to people who are older, sicker, or have pre-existing conditions.
  • The Department of Labor issued the final rule for Association Health Plans. Expanding these plans will make it easier for certain small employers to offer plans don’t have ACA coverage protections. These plans could attract younger, healthier consumers away from the ACA Marketplace, raise costs for consumers who are older or sicker, and weaken essential health benefits for people who need coverage the most. 
  • CMS released reports on the performance of the exchanges and the individual health insurance market. The reports used unhelpful statements such as “Reports show individual market erosion and increasing taxpayer liability” and “…Obamacare was failing its consumers.”
  • The Administration is slashing even more funding for organizations called “navigators” that assist people who need health insurance. The Washington Post reported that for the upcoming enrollment period, funding for navigators will be cut from $36.8 million to $10 million. Just as troubling, organizations that apply for navigator grants will be “expected” to promote inadequate insurance such as Association Health Plans and short-term plans.
  • The Sunlight Foundation’s Web Integrity Project found that HHS removed 14 pages of information about the Affordable Care Act from its Medicaid website. According to the Sunlight Foundation, the removed pages “provided information such as eligibility requirements under Medicaid and the ACA…” The Foundation also states that “Other Americans who are newly eligible for Medicaid through Medicaid expansion under the ACA could have used this information to understand how the ACA affects their Medicaid benefits and services they can receive.”
  • The Administration announced that it was stopping payments to insurers under the ACA’s risk adjustment program. The risk adjustment program supports insurers that provide coverage to large numbers of sicker enrollees who have higher costs. America’s Health Insurance Plans, an insurance industry group, stated that CMS’ decision “will create more market uncertainty and increase premiums for many health plans, putting a heavier burden on small businesses and consumers, and reducing coverage options.

Regrettably, this looks like more sabotage to us.  

July 19, 2018 – B. Belton

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