Thanks to all who joined us at Secolari yesterday - either in person or on-line. Unfortunately, Consumer Health First doesn’t know who you are so we can’t thank you directly. However, we are truly grateful for your generosity. And, we also thank the wonderful people at Secolari for donating 15% of all sales to us. Here’s to healthy holidays for all!
Secolari is a purveyor of artisanal oils, vinegar, and other gourmet treats, and they are generously donating 15% of all purchase made in-store and online today to help Consumer Health First as we work to advance health care reform throughout Maryland.
So, stop in and say hi, or, if you are tied up at work, live in another part of the state, or even out of state - pop online and take a look around for a great cause.
On October 12, President Trump announced that he would be ending the Cost Sharing Subsidy (CSR) payments to insurers, designed to protect carriers from large financial losses incurred in ACA Exchanges. Attorney General Brian Frosh joined a lawsuit filed by 18 State Attorney Generals to halt the withdrawal. Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer allowed carriers to file new rates for the individual market for the 2018 plan year, held a public rate hearing on Monday, and announced new premiums for on-Exchange silver plans yesterday.
Consumer Health First sent a letter to Commissioner Redmer, requesting that any new rates be added ONLY to the on-Exchange Silver plans and we are pleased the MIA agreed with us. While we lament any premium increases, Commissioner Redmer’s actions provide the greatest protection for Maryland consumers.
- By increasing the cost of the on-Exchange Silver plans, eligible Maryland consumers will receive a higher dollar amount for the premium tax credit. Some consumers may now be able to buy an on-Exchange Bronze plan at no cost or an on-Exchange Gold plan at a nominally higher cost than an on-Exchange Silver plan.
- Maryland consumers who do not qualify for a premium tax credit should consider purchasing Silver plans OFF the Exchange as the price will be significantly higher on the Exchange.
- This year, in particular, Maryland consumers should seek professional assistance from an insurance broker or navigator when considering plan options in the individual market.
National Response to the Suspension of CSR Payments
The lawsuit filed by the 18 State Attorney Generals requested an immediate injunction to require the Federal government to continue CSR payments. A federal judge in California denied the request for an injunction citing the fact that most states, including Maryland, were already making plans to adjust to the lack of CSRs, and did not want insurance carriers to end up "double dipping" if rates were increased and then subsidies were reinstated and noting that a relatively small number of people on most Exchanges would be affected.
Meanwhile, the bi-partisan Murray-Alexander bill received good scores from a CBO analysis of the bill. Nearly $4 billion in tax deficit reductions, no one loses coverage, and no cuts to Medicaid or Medicare services. But, the future of the Murray-Alexander bill hangs in the balance pending a signal from President Trump that he will sign the legislation if the Senate passes the bill.
Other Important Federal Developments
CHIP is still not funded, the rate of uninsured Americans rose for the first time since the ACA was put into place indicating that 3.5 million Americans lost their insurance coverage, and Health and Human Services new Strategic Plan includes a definition that life begins at conception. Public comments for the plan are being accepted until tomorrow, October 27.
And that was just this week...
A bipartisan group of 10 governors has sent a letter to Congress, urging them to “stabilize the private insurance markets.” The letter goes on to state that, "Stabilizing insurance markets is one of the primary areas where Congress can take action to ensure that consumers have affordable health care options," the letter reads. The missing signature on this letter is Governor Hogan’s. His spokesperson said that Governor Hogan does support the subsidy payments. However, he did not sign the letter because “… sometimes legislation starts off in one direction and ends up in a different direction. . . ” He said that they would keep an eye on the legislation as it moves through Congress.
We appreciate Governor Hogan's public statements of support for ensuring Marylanders do have health care and we hope that he will take the time to review the recommendations we posed at the recent “Marylanders Speak to Hogan” forum. Unfortunately, the Governor was not in attendance to hear from Consumer Health First, Strong Schools Maryland, or Chesapeake Climate Action Network. However, the report has been sent to him and it can be downloaded here. A copy of Consumer Health First’s slides can be downloaded here.
The following Bill summary was issued by Senator Murray's office and can be downloaded here:
This bipartisan agreement to strengthen the health care system will stabilize the markets that millions of families rely on for insurance coverage, reducing the risk of premium spikes and the threat of insurer exits. The bill also mitigates the damage done by the Administration’s sabotage by restoring resources for outreach and enrollment before 2018 open enrollment begins.
The Murray-Alexander deal would not affect any of the ACA’s core elements – like patient protections, tax credits, essential health benefits – that millions rely on. The major provisions:
RESTORES CSR PAYMENTS:
• Restoring CSR certainty is crucial to continued market stability and affordability for families. Insurers have raised rates by as much as 30% as a result for this uncertainty and continue to threaten exit from insurance markets.
• The agreement restores certainty to health care markets by ensuring cost sharing reductions will be continued through 2017, 2018, and 2019.
• The agreement includes steps to ensure 2018 enrollees receive the financial benefit of cost sharing reduction certainty for the coming year.
REINVESTS IN OUTREACH AND ENROLLMENT:
• Requires HHS to increase funding for outreach and enrollment assistance activities for 2018 and 2019.
• Puts in place extensive reporting requirements to make sure HHS and CMS are held accountable for implementing open enrollment in 2018 and 2019.
MAINTAINS CORE PROTECTIONS OF 1332 WAIVER PROVISION
• Maintains the core protections related to affordability, coverage, and comprehensiveness in current law’s 1332 waiver provision.
• Modifies the 1332 “affordability” guardrail to allow states to propose innovative value-based insurance designs, but adds language specifically protecting low income people, those with serious health conditions, and other vulnerable populations.
• Expands the generosity of “pass through” payments to states granted 1332 waivers
STREAMLINING THE 1332 STATE WAIVER PROCESS:
• Shortens the Administration’s review window for states’ waiver applications,
• Expedites review for states in emergency circumstances, as well as those with waiver proposals that have already been approved for other states,
• Allows Governors to approve state waiver applications, rather than requiring state legislatures to pass a law.
• Waivers are assessed for budget neutrality over the life of the waiver rather than on a yearly basis.
• Expands eligibility for catastrophic plans to people over 30, while maintaining a single risk pool so that those with serious medical needs aren’t priced out.
• Directs the Administration to issue regulations on interstate health compacts, a provision included in the Affordable Care Act that the Obama Administration never issued regulations on.
At 11:30 am today, President Trump signed an Executive Order to sabotage our health care. Having failed at health care repeal in Congress because of bipartisan opposition and overwhelming public rejection, the Trump administration is now doing everything it can to sabotage the country’s health care system and fulfill his promise to “Let it be a disaster.”