Trump Administration Cuts Funding For Obamacare Navigator Program

Trump administration freezes billions of dollars in payments to Obamacare insurers

The Trump Administration said Tuesday it is slashing funding for groups that assist with Obamacare enrollment - marking the second consecutive year the Administration has cut such funding.

In the short term, $10.4 billion in payments tied to the 2017 benefit year, which were scheduled to go to health insurance companies, will not be paid. The fund would be separate from the federal risk adjustment payments and could allow the insurers to reduce their requested rate increases by as much as 30 percent. Her insurer, Oscar, is boosting rates again for 2019, and Williams is slated to see an increase to $518.33 for a low-level bronze plan.

This is distinct from the debate over ObamaCare's cost-sharing payments, which the Trump Administration cut off previous year after a federal judge barred the subsidies that Congress had not appropriated. This follows the failure of several attempts by the Republican-controlled Congress a year ago to repeal and replace it. During his first year in office, the president pressed the Republican-led Congress to repeal much of the 2010 law that was one of President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievements. "As a result of this litigation, billions of dollars in risk adjustment payments and collections are now on hold".

"The administration has failed miserably to live up to its promise of better health care, so now it's taking a million cuts to undermine the market and harm consumers in the end". The cuts to grass-roots groups around the country were announced three days after health officials revealed that, because of a pending lawsuit, they were suspending a program created by the law to even out the burden on health insurers whose customers are especially unhealthy or sick. The nonprofit insurer sued the government in 2016 claiming the risk adjustment program unfairly penalized smaller insurers.

The administration, however, was not compelled to halt the payments on the basis of this ruling. In January a federal court in MA ruled the formula wasn't arbitrary and capricious. Agents and brokers assisted 42 percent of FFE enrollees, costing the exchanges about $2.40 per enrollee to provide technical support and assistance.

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This is one way the ACA, also known as Obamacare, makes it possible for people who need particularly expensive care to get health insurance at an affordable rate.

While the DOJ has argued that only the individual mandate, and not the entire ACA, should be struck down, its refusal to uphold the constitutionality of a current law is highly unusual. It's bad news, as well, for all Americans who believe that nobody should be priced out of basic health care just to save the rest of us a buck. These plans would bypass the law's protections that prevent companies from charging higher prices to women, older people and those with preexisting medical conditions. Pregnancy could be one of these.

Florida Blue, an insurer that enrolls among the largest number of Obamacare consumers nationwide, said it won't miss the help from the federally funded grass-roots helpers.

Trump asked federal agencies last fall to look for ways to expand the use of these plans, which could offer skimpier coverage for lower cost. The Maryland Insurance Administration has a hearing scheduled for July 31. She's hoping to land a full-time job with health insurance before she has to renew her coverage. The group includes former Republican Senator Rick Santorum along with representatives from the Goldwater Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.

Critics deride such plans as "junk insurance". In other words, the Trump Administration position in court is in favor of making the payments. That's because many ACA customers will qualify for federal government premium subsidies, which are still alive and well in Obamacare.

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