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New Moves on Health Reform from Congress and Administration

A bipartisan deal to prop up Obamacare exchanges got a lukewarm response from the White House, but opposition from House and Senate conservatives.

President Trump had created confusion with conflicting signals on the deal announced Oct. 18 until White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders declared his opposition. Coming days after a decision by Trump to scrap subsidy payments to Obamacare insurers, the deal had appeared to be the only Obamacare legislation with a chance of passing Congress this year. It could help stem a flight by major insurers out of the individual insurance market in many states, with Americans due to begin signing up for 2018 coverage in two weeks.

The two-year deal would allow crucial subsidies to health insurers to start flowing again, potentially lowering insurance premiums for those in the program next year. The package would give states new flexibility on how their Affordable Care Act markets are run. It will also encourage states to meld their markets together, and let more people buy low-cost, limited-coverage plans.

The flexibility would allow states to implement Obamacare in a way that provides customers coverage similar in affordability to plans under the current law. At the same time, states can’t degrade consumer protections Obamacare requires plans to offer, such as maternity care, mental health services and a ban on discrimination against pre-existing conditions.

The health-insurance subsidies, called cost-sharing reduction payments or CSRs, have been a major factor in the increased premiums plans say they’ll charge next year. The subsidies help lower-income people with co-pays and other costs they face when they see a doctor or pick up a prescription.

By Patrick Cooney, The Federal Group, Inc.
Legislative Representative, Dental Trade Alliance