Trump administration takes another swipe at 'Obamacare'

President Donald Trump speaks about health care from the White House in Washington. The Trump administration says it’s freezing payments under an Obamacare program that protects insurers with sicker patients

The Trump administration has halted billions of dollars in annual payments under the Affordable Care Act's risk adjustment program. Critics of the administration's position on the ACA, like Andy Slavitt, former CMS acting administrator under Barack Obama, said that this move will stir chaos in the insurance marketplace. All in all, the program was slated to shift $10.4 billion among insurers in 2017, according to the agency. The Trump administration claims it is obligated to suspend these payments because of a court ruling out of New Mexico questioning their legality, but there is reason to be skeptical. The payments work this way: The government takes money from insurers with healthier, low-risk customers, and gives it to insurers with less-healthy, higher-risk customers. No taxpayer subsidies are involved. The idea is to insulate insurance companies from the cost of enrolling people with pre-existing conditions, and remove the incentive for insurance companies to cherry pick healthy people. Medicare private insurance plans also use the strategy.

Major insurer groups said Saturday the administration's action interferes with a program that's working well. Fred Ammons, who supervises the Insure Georgia navigator organization, told the New York Times that the move will "virtually eliminate" in-person assistance for complicated Obamacare sign ups.

Officials with Kaiser Permanente, the state's other insurer with Affordable Care Act plans, have raised concerns about the risk adjustment program but disagreed with the suspension of the payments.

The Trump administration's move "will significantly increase 2019 premiums for millions of individuals and small business owners and could result in far fewer health plan choices", association president Scott Serota said in a statement. "It will allow more companies to get into the insurance market".

It could encourage more insurers to bow out of the Affordable Care Act.

Monsoon Threatens Thailand Cave Rescue Operation
Two of the boys had suspected lung infections but the four boys from the first group rescued were all walking around in hospital. The boys and their coach had been stranded in Tham Luang Nang Non when they went exploring in the cave after a scrimmage.

Dr. Dave Weldon, president of the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries, discusses why health care sharing ministries could be a good alternative for people who can't find affordable health care.

About 20 million Americans have received health insurance coverage through the program.

"As the Exchange has grown in visibility and become more familiar to Americans seeking health insurance, the need for federally funded Navigators has diminished", CMS said in a statement on Tuesday.

"We urge the Trump administration to back off of this unsafe and destabilizing plan, and instead begin working on bipartisan solutions to make coverage more affordable", said Brad Woodhouse, the executive director of Protect Our Care, a progressive group that supports Obamacare.

Last weekend, the administration announced it is freezing payments by an ACA program meant to stabilize premiums.

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