The last few days have brought more uncertainty and chaos in the health policy realm. President Trump signed an Executive Order on Thursday, October 12, 2017 allowing insurers to sell policies at a lower cost that will not have the same protections as plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Known as Association Plans, this latest move will entice many to switch in an effort to save money, however at the cost of their health. These plans are not required to provide the Essential Health Benefits mandated by the Affordable Care Act, and could allow insurers to discriminate based on preexisting conditions.
This Executive Order is another attempt to dismantle the ACA since Congress has failed to repeal and replace yet again. The Trump administration has also decreased funding for healthcare navigators by up to 90%, slashed the marketing budget for open enrollment, and has scheduled maintenance on the federal marketplace every Sunday of open enrollment between the hours of 12am and 12pm ET. Open enrollment across the country is also shorter, only six weeks. However, California has kept the original open enrollment period from November 1, 2017 to January 31, 2018.
The administration is also ending the Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) payments to insurers, which allow lower-income Americans to purchase plans on the marketplace. This decision will cause premiums to cost more, however it is important to note that eligibility to receive tax credits has not changed and those who qualify for subsidies are protected. Anticipating this cut, California required insurers to add a 12.4% surcharge to Silver Plan premiums on Covered California. State Attorney General Xavier Becerra, along with 17 other State Attorney Generals filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration’s action and requested a restraining order to protect consumers in California and the other 17 states from the immediate harm that will be caused by eliminating these CSR payments.
As the threats to affordable healthcare for all Americans continue, we will be on the front lines working with Federal and State leaders to protect and preserve the ACA, keep consumers and advocates informed, and ultimately work to improve upon the many advances that have been made in healthcare access and health equity.