White House Freezes Billions of Dollars In Payments To Obamacare Recipients

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In another blow to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Trump administration froze billions of dollars in payments, according to the Los Angeles Times. The payments are meant to “stabilize insurance markets” and to help when “some insurers inevitably got stuck with sicker, more costly patients.” The halting of these payments could increase premiums and even force companies to stop providing coverage.

According to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a federal court ruling made them suspend what is known as “risk-adjustment payments.” The payments are worth nearly 10.4 billion dollars. The Washington Post reports that these types of payments are only one method included in the 2010 health-care law meant to “help insulate insurance companies from the ACA requirement that they accept all customers for the first time — healthy and sick — without charging more to those who need substantial care.”

The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued a statement about the ruling on Saturday.

“Billions of dollars in risk-adjustment payments and collections are now on hold. CMS has asked the court to reconsider its ruling, and hopes for a prompt resolution that allows CMS to prevent more adverse impacts on Americans who receive their insurance in the individual and small group markets.”

Each year, health officials are supposed to assess which insurers are owed money to supplement the more expensive customers and which are to pitch into the fund. Practically, this system helps insurers to “participate in the insurance marketplaces the ACA created.”

According to Blue Cross Blue Shield Assn. Chief Executive Officer Scott Serota, the ruling will “significantly increase 2019 premiums for millions of individuals and small business owners and could result in far fewer health plan choices.”

This is the latest in the Trump administration’s move to dismantle the ACA, something he promised to repeal even before he was elected. Since Congress, which is currently dominated by the GOP, had been unable to repeal the ACA, Trump is now attempting to use his executive powers to do so.

In addition to significantly reducing the sign-up period, the advertising budget to encourage Americans to sign up was reduced by 90 percent. In October, the administration got rid of cost-sharing reduction payments, “which cushioned [insurers] from the law’s requirement to provide discounts on deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs to low-income customers.”

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Trump’s latest move breaks the law, according to Politico. He called this ruling a “malicious and intentional attack on our healthcare system.”

There has been no word from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services as to plans to write a new ruling.