Changes to the Affordable Care Act

This week President Trump made the first move to begin the replacement of the Affordable Care Act. By issuing this executive order, this will drive immediate compliance. However, it will touch off reactions from all healthcare stakeholders including patients, providers, insurers, employers and the government. No matter which side of the political aisle you sit on, be prepared. The coming changes to the Affordable Care Act will require cooperation and compromise not seen from Washington in many years. It should be an interesting year for healthcare in 2018.
By John Tozzi and Zachary Tracer, Bloomberg
‎October‎ ‎13‎, ‎2017‎
The Trump administration is cutting tens of millions of dollars from organizations that help Americans enroll in Obamacare health plans, leaving some of the groups scrambling to shrink their operations weeks before enrollment for 2018 coverage opens on Nov. 1.
The organizations, called navigators, say the funding cuts have been arbitrary, opaque and don’t follow the Trump administration’s stated method for calculating the reductions. The groups had been counting on money for the final year of a three-year grant program, and most didn’t learn how deep the cuts would be until after last year’s funding expired on Sept. 1.
When the Trump administration announced in late August that it would make the reductions, it said they would hold inefficient groups accountable and navigators that met prior enrollment goals would maintain funding.
Navigator groups say it hasn’t worked out that way.
Catherine Edwards, the executive director of the Missouri Association of Area Agencies on Aging, said her group helped 3,945 people last year sign up for health insurance, exceeding their goal. Their grant was cut 62 percent, to $349,251, from $919,902.
“This administration has been doing everything it can to make sure the Affordable Care Act fails,” Edwards said. “They’re tying our hands behind our back to make sure this does fail.”
Edwards’ group had to cut enrollment help and advertising, and will field 52 navigators this year, down from 72, leaving some rural parts of the state without any enrollment assisters.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services declined to provide data on navigator groups’ performance or to explain why some organizations that appeared to meet their goals were cut.
Trump’s Dismantling
Navigators focus on enrolling people with complex family or financial situations, and offer in-person assistance to those who have trouble enrolling online because of language barriers or lack of internet access. Some groups serve ethnic enclaves or vulnerable communities unreached by broader marketing campaigns.
The cuts are likely to hit rural areas the hardest, potentially depressing enrollment in parts of the country where insurers have already pulled back.
President Donald Trump, having watched Republicans in Congress fail to repeal the Affordable Care Act, has taken aim at the law using regulations and executive actions. On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order mean to make it easier for people to buy insurance that doesn’t meet the ACA’s standards, potentially drawing healthy people out of the ACA market. Late that evening, the administration said it would stop making subsidy payments to insurers that help lower-income people afford co-pays and other cost-sharing.
“We’re starting that process” of repeal and replace, Trump said at the White House Thursday.
The administration has also slashed advertising for Obamacare signups by 90 percent, and plans to take down the healthcare.gov website for maintenance periods in the middle of the season. Premiums for next year are rising as insurers say they’re uncertain about the law’s future.
A Nationwide Pattern
What happened to Edwards’ group in Missouri has happened around the country.
Covering Wisconsin, the larger of two navigator programs in that state, enrolled 2,287 people in private health plans and another 1,370 people in Medicaid last year, exceeding targets for both, director Donna Friedsam said in an email. Its funding was cut from to $576,197 this year, from $998,960 last year, a 42 percent reduction. As a result, its navigators won’t be in 11 of the 23 counties it served over the last year.
The Ohio Association of Foodbanks, the primary navigator in the state, helped nearly 9,000 Ohioans enroll in private plans and another 35,000 apply for Medicaid since 2013. The group “met, nearly met, or exceeded” goals for four years, said executive director Lisa Hamler-Fugitt. Despite that, funding was cut by 71 percent, to $485,000, from $1.7 million.
The funding cuts seem like sabotage, not accountability, Hamler-Fugitt said. Her group closed its navigator program and let most of its staff go rather than try to sustain it at the lower funding level.
“If we were such poor performers, why were we not notified and corrective action taken? Because we weren’t,” she said.
Smaller and Sicker
Along with the navigator cuts and other regulatory moves, confusion over Obamacare’s fate will likely lead to “a smaller, sicker group of enrollees,” said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute.
Customers who don’t shop around for coverage could “have huge sticker shock” if they do nothing and are automatically re-enrolled in their current plans, Corlette said.
The navigator grants are funded by a levy on health plans in the insurance marketplaces, which benefit from the marketing and outreach. Trump administration officials didn’t respond to questions about how unspent fees would be used.
Cut at the Last Minute
The Trump administration said in August that it would cut funding to the navigators by 39 percent, down from $62.5 million the last enrollment period. The cuts apply only to states that have health-care markets run by the federal government — 16 operate their own.
They were announced just days before the new grants were supposed to begin. The agency had affirmed grant amounts earlier in the year.
“All indications were everything was going very well,” said Allen Gjersvig, director of navigator and enrollment services at the Arizona Alliance for Community Health Centers. Staff at CMS told the group as late as Aug. 28 that the funding was on track, he said. Days later, the Alliance’s navigator grant was cut from about $1.1 million to $700,000.
His confusion isn’t unique. Of the 48 navigator programs that responded to a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, about half said no rationale was provided, and another 40 percent said the explanation was “very or somewhat unclear.”
The Palmetto Project in South Carolina had its navigator grant cut from $1.1 million to $500,000, and will have 30 navigators instead of the 62 it planned on, said Shelli Quenga, the organization’s director of programs. It plans to leave some rural areas without in-person help.
“I think there will be people who choose poorly,” Quenga said. “There will also be people who just give up.”

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A New Plan to Replace the ACA

With the effort to amend/repeal/replace the Affordable Care Act, we are currently one plan down and one to go. The first attempt to enact a new plan failed to come to vote in the House in March. This week a modified plan has surfaced that some are saying may move closer to being approved. In the below Article you will see some of the major provisions we expect to see vetted over the coming days.

 

 Republicans have a new plan to repeal and replace Obamacare

Thursday, 20 Apr 2017 | 10:26 AM ET  by Berkeley Lovelace Jr. – CNBC

Republican lawmakers have a new plan to repeal and replace Obamacare in a bid to bridge the gap between the House Freedom Caucus and moderates, according to a document obtained by CNBC.

A Freedom Caucus source told CNBC the changes to the health bill would secure 25 to 30 “yes” votes from the Freedom Caucus, and the new bill would get “very close” to 216 votes. The source said that 18 to 20 of those “yes” votes would be new.

Here is the document:

MacArthur Amendment to the American Health Care Act – 4/13/17

Insurance Market Provisions

The MacArthur Amendment would:

  • Reinstate Essential Health Benefits as the federal standard
  • Maintain the following provisions of the AHCA:

– Prohibition on denying coverage due to preexisting medical conditions

– Prohibition on discrimination based on gender

– Guaranteed issue of coverage to all applicants

– Guaranteed renewability of coverage

– Coverage of dependents on parents’ plan up to age 26

– Community Rating Rules, except for limited waivers

Limited Waiver Option

The amendment would create an option for states to obtain Limited Waivers from certain federal standards, in the interest of lowering premium costs and expanding the number of insured persons.

States could seek Limited Waivers for:

  • Essential Health Benefits
  • Community rating rules, except for the following categories, which are not waivable:
  • Gender
  • Age (except for reductions of the 5:1 age ratio previously established)
  • Health Status (unless the state has established a high risk pool or is participating in a federal high risk pool)

Limited Waiver Requirements

States must attest that the purpose of their requested waiver is to reduce premium costs, increase the number of persons with healthcare coverage, or advance another benefit to the public interest in the state, including the guarantee of coverage for persons with pre-existing medical conditions. The Secretary shall approve applications within 90 days of determining that an application is complete.

CNBC has reached out to the office of House Speaker Paul Ryan about the document.

Earlier this month, Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Mark Meadows said the majority of caucus members will support the new bill if changes offered by the White House are included in the legislation, such as coverage waivers related to community rating protections.

In March, House Republicans pulled their first attempt at a repeal and replacement of Obamacare, dubbed the American Health Care Act, due in large part to opposition from both conservative and moderate Republicans.

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The ‘Trump effect’ on your Obamacare coverage

Happy Holidays from Medical Cost Advocate! As we enter a new year and new administration, change is inevitable on many fronts. Understandably people want to know what that means in regards to their healthcare. More specifically they want to know how they will be affected in light of the promised changes to Obamacare. Though we can only speculate at this point, a great overview by healthinsurance.org provides some insights based on what we know so far.

With our newly elected president threatening repeal of Obamacare, should you worry that your health insurance could go up in smoke?

By Louise Norris, healthinsurance.org contributor, November 12, 2016

Donald Trump will be our next president. What exactly does that mean for your health insurance coverage and access to healthcare? It’s a question that has drawn speculation from health policy wonks since the day after Trump’s election – but I’ve also been receiving many of these questions from clients who are curious about whether their coverage will change any time soon.

In truth, nobody can say for sure at this point, since there are still so many moving parts to the law. But we have some educated guesses, based on Trump’s positions and the actions Congress has taken over the last six years with regards to Obamacare.

Here are the best answers we have at the moment for some questions you might have, along with more details about what you can expect in the coming months and years:

Do you still need to buy ACA-compliant coverage?

Q: If Obamacare is going to be repealed, do I need to buy ACA-compliant coverage now?

A: Yes, you still need coverage for 2017, and now’s the time to buy it. On November 9, the day after Trump won the election, 100,000 people enrolled in coverage through HealthCare.gov, according to HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell. That’s the largest number of sign-ups in a single day since open enrollment began on November 1, so there is considerable momentum in terms of people enrolling in coverage for 2017.

We can assume that Congress will pass legislation to repeal parts of the ACA (more details below), and that Trump will sign it into law. This is likely to happen in 2017. But it’s unlikely that it will have an effective date prior to 2019, as Congress will need time to implement its replacement plan, and the IRS will need time to establish the new tax system that will go along with whatever replaces the ACA (most likely, tax credits to offset the purchase of coverage).

So for 2017, you still need coverage. And subsidies — including premium subsidies and cost-sharing subsidies — are still available. Although they’re likely to be eliminated eventually, at least in their current form, that’s not likely to take effect in 2017. (more…)

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