The good news that health insurers are eager to get back into the Affordable Care Act markets for 2019 obviously could not stand with the Trump administration. Friday evening, the Wall Street Journal reported that the administration was freezing billions of dollars in payments to health insurers required under the law.
These are risk adjustment payments, fully paid by health insurers—there are no taxpayer dollars involved here. Health insurers pay into a pool, so insurers with healthy enrollees end up helping out insurers who spend more on high cost patients, amounting to over $10 billion in 2017. This pool spreads the risk of insurers having to take all comers, and is integral to how the markets work. It's what makes covering people with pre-existing conditions—some of them very expensive—manageable for insurers. That and huge premiums and deductibles.
The administration needed a justification for this action other than reports that the markets next year would be healthy, so they're insisting that they're freezing the payments because of a of court judgment out of New Mexico which says the formula being used to determine payments isn't fair to some insurers—particularly health co-ops, who brought the suit. Nicholas Bagely explains the arguments here, and has one key point: nothing in the court ruling says that the payments have to stop, and the administration could have taken a number of actions short of this nuclear one of cutting off payments. A normal government would ask for a stay and get to work adjusting the payment formula.
This isn't a normal government. It's Trump's HHS, and its whole purpose is to seemingly destroy Obamacare, never mind what it does to the markets or to actual sick people. Health insurers are up in arms. America's Health Insurance Plans, the trade group representing insurers blasted this "new market disruption." The increased uncertainty is going to drive up premiums for many health plans, they said in a statement. "This decision will have serious consequences for millions of consumers who get their coverage through small businesses or buy coverage on their own." Blue Cross Blue Shield Association President and CEO Scott Serota adds that the "action will significantly increase 2019 premiums for millions of individuals and small business owners and could result in far fewer health plan choices," as well as "undermine Americans’ access to affordable coverage, particularly those who need medical care the most."
This is just wanton destruction, and self-defeating at that. It's going to cost the federal government even more. It needs to cost Trump's party their majority in 2019.
Please give $1 to our Senate and House funds so that Republicans pay the price for sabotaging our health care.