Administration Moves To Block Access To Health Insurance

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The Trump administration is moving to make it harder for you to get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. The net effect of the proposals would be significantly greater regulatory and paperwork burdens for both consumers and health insurance exchanges, the opposite of Trump’s promise during the campaign and since taking office.

The proposed rules also would lower the percentage of expenses that insurers must cover, forcing patients to pay more for their health care.

Andy Slavitt, the former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said the Trump administration has created a “manufactured crisis” in the Affordable Care Act with talk of a repeal and not enforcing rules.

About 650,000 more people would have to submit documents to verify that they can get health insurance. Among those affected are newlyweds, people switching insurance because of a life event such as losing a job and Native Americans.

This is just some of the fine print in the 71-page proposed regulation that the Department of Health and Human Services unveiled Wednesday, just days after Tom Price was sworn in as the new Health secretary. Price, a physician, has promised to gut the Affordable Care Act.

The increased burdens on married couples are outlined at Page 28.  For people applying for individual insurance under the Affordable Care Act, “at least one spouse must either demonstrate that they had minimum essential coverage or that they lived outside of the U.S. or in a U.S. territory for one or more days during the 60 days preceding the date of the marriage.”

The proposed new Trump administration rule cites no facts indicating problems with consumer fraud in Affordable Care Act health insurance applications.

The proposal does refer to a November 2016 report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigating arm of Congress, but it lends no support to the proposed regulations.

The GAO tested whether people willing to commit fraud by making false applications could obtain health insurance. In nine of 12 cases, the ruses worked, but the GAO report cautioned that its findings” are not generalizable to the population of applicants or marketplaces.”

The GAO report was characterized as a waste of time by the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority, which runs the Affordable Care market in the nation’s capital. It said “there is no evidence of systematic abuses” among its clientele.

The exchange found such a low risk of fraud that “it is neither an efficient use of resources…nor worth the burden to the consumer” to verify such details in applications

Because of the Affordable Care Act, the national uninsured rate has dropped from 16% in 2010 to 8.8% in 2016, the lowest rate ever.

Administration officials and lawmakers those opposed to the Affordable Care Act have dutifully supported the Trump administration’s initiative.

“This proposal will take steps to stabilize the marketplace,” Patrick Conway, the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said in a press release.

Republican Representative Michael Burgess of Texas and Greg Walden of Oregon said the proposed rule “helps move our country beyond the damage of Obamacare.”

Three Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives said the rule “continues Republican efforts to rip away health security from Americans” and “shift costs onto consumers.” The joint statement came from Rep. Richard Neal, D-Massachusetts; Frank Pallone, Jr., D-New Jersey; and Bobby Scott, D-Virginia.

Some insurers have dropped out of the Marketplace. Humana announced on Tuesday that it won’t offer insurance through the Affordable Care Act in 2018.


What you can do about it:

Citizens have until March 7 to weigh in on the new rule. Use the rule-making code CMS-9929-P in any correspondence.

Write: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services / Department of Health & Human Services / Attention: CMS-9929-P / P.O. Box 8016 / Baltimore, MD 21244-8016. The phone number is 410-786-7195.

You can also comment online. This link will take you to the text of the proposed rule. There is a comment button on the right.

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