President Trump Deals Yet Another Critical Blow to Healthcare System


Yesterday President Trump dealt yet another critical blow to the healthcare system established under the Affordable Care Act by announcing his administration would end critical Cost-Sharing Reduction (CSR) payment subsidies. These payments – projected to total roughly $9 billion in 2018 and $100 billion over the next 10 years – are made to help offset costs of co-payments, co-insurance, and deductibles for low-income Americans who enroll in individual health insurance coverage under the ACA’s exchanges.

The decision to end these payments will result in higher costs for low- and middle-income Americans and will threaten the ability of these individuals to afford coverage. The administration has treated these payments as a political bargaining chip for months; ending them, in combination with yesterday’s Executive Order on association health plans, will have an immediate and negative impact on Americans’ ability to access critical healthcare services. ANA reiterates: the Trump administration is making a deliberate attempt to undermine the system put in place by the ACA for political gain, at the expense of some of the most vulnerable Americans.

Individuals enrolled in health insurance coverage through the ACA’s individual marketplace with household income between 100% ($12,060 for an individual and $24,600 for a family of four) and 250% ($30,150 for an individual and $61,500 for a family of four) of the Federal Poverty Guideline are currently eligible for cost-sharing reductions. CSRs reduce the amount that low-income individuals pay out-of-pocket for co-payments, co-insurance, and deductibles. In effect, these cost-sharing reductions currently make it more likely that these individuals get critical preventive and other healthcare services and avoid more serious and/or chronic health issues long-term.

The Commonwealth Fund reported in March 2016 that as many as seven million individuals might have plans that are aided by  CSRs, representing a significant portion of the individuals who signed up for coverage through the individual exchanges under the ACA. This Commonwealth Fund report also noted that – according to government data – out-of-pocket healthcare spending declined significantly in 2014 (the year the ACA was implemented). In short, it is abundantly clear that the ACA’s cost-sharing reductions have in fact helped low-income individuals receive critical healthcare services.

We will continue to urge Congress and the administration to work toward market stabilization and to strengthen the existing system – which has resulted in coverage for tens of millions of Americans since 2014 – and to put an end to these attempts to sabotage Americans’ healthcare for political gain. ANA is committed to working with Congress and the administration on legislation and policy which aligns with our four core principles of health system transformation. The President’s actions this week fly in the face of ANA’s principles and will cause significant harm to millions of American families.

(Photo: Matt Rourke/AP)

President’s Latest Attempt to Destabilize Healthcare


This morning, despite ongoing bipartisan efforts to stabilize the individual insurance market following the failure of Congress to pass legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) allowing for the creation of new association health plan (AHP) options for small employers and individuals. AHPs currently exist and are used primarily by small businesses to purchase group health coverage, but are regulated under the provisions of the ACA in the same way as coverage purchased on the individual health insurance market. Today’s EO in effect treats AHPs as large group health insurance plans and allows coverage under AHPs to be sold across state lines.

Treating AHPs in this way exempts them from important provisions covered under the ACA. As a reminder, the ACA includes provisions on insurance plans sold on the individual market which:

  • Require plans to cover 10 Essential Health Benefits including reproductive and maternal health services and preventive services;
  • Forbid insurers from charging more to individuals due to pre-existing conditions;
  • Limit the amount insurance companies can charge to older individuals based on age.

The American Nurses Association opposes any action – legislative or executive – which would put at risk the ability of Americans to access and receive high quality healthcare. This is particularly true when it comes to the most vulnerable Americans. It has become increasingly clear that this administration is more concerned with scoring political points and reversing gains made in healthcare than it is about actually ensuring high quality healthcare coverage for all Americans.

As a result of this EO, AHPs would be permitted to offer coverage that does not include the 10 Essential Health Benefits required to be covered under insurance plans offered through the ACA exchanges. AHPs would also be allowed to charge different prices to consumers based on age and health – including charging more for individuals with any host of pre-existing conditions.

This EO allows AHPs to sell insurance coverage which offers fewer benefits at variable prices depending on an individual’s health. This would certainly be an attractive option for someone who is young, healthy, and does not anticipate needing to use a high volume of healthcare services. The flipside is that this would have a negative impact on older adults and individuals with pre-existing conditions.  The cruel irony with this plan is that these individuals would likely be stuck with plans in the individual marketplace, as they would not be able to afford the coverage offered under AHPs – which would likely not provide coverage for necessary care.

Furthermore, these insurance plans are ripe for instances of fraud, abuse, and insolvency. The Government Accountability Office in 1992 issued a report which slammed similar small business insurance arrangements and noted that they left hundreds of thousands of enrollees with millions of dollars in unpaid claims and widely failed to meet state insurance laws and regulations. The GAO report found that some plans tried to duck under state insurance regulations entirely. This type of wild, wild west approach to insurance coverage does not offer the comprehensive level of coverage at a low price that the Trump administration claims. Based on the provisions of this EO, we also expect several lawsuits to challenge this based on the legality under current federal law and on the insurance across state lines aspect.

In essence, this latest gambit by the Trump administration is another attempt to undermine the system put in place by the ACA at the expense of some of the most vulnerable Americans. Combined with the administration’s move last week to weaken the ability of Americans to access sexual and reproductive healthcare services – particularly contraceptives – covered under the ACA, this represents a significant effort to endanger the healthcare of all Americans.

We urge Congress and the Administration to continue to work toward market stabilization and to strengthen the existing system – which has resulted in coverage for tens of millions more Americans since 2014 – and to put an end to these attempts to sabotage Americans’ healthcare for political gain. ANA is committed to working with Congress and the administration on legislation and policy which aligns with our four core principles of health system transformation. This Executive Order, however, represents a major step backward from achieving those principles.

(Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times)

Better Late, Than Never – House and Senate Make Moves on CHIP


Yesterday, four days after funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expired, Congress finally moved on getting it reauthorized. CHIP currently provides health coverage for nine million children in the United States. The Senate Finance Committee passed a bipartisan agreement, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce ran into trouble with their version of the legislation.

After a seven-hour hearing, with lots of back and forth between Republicans and Democrats, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the bill by a vote of 28-23 along party lines. The Democrats objected to the bill’s funding plan, which would increase Medicare premiums on seniors earning more than $500,000 a year, saying CHIP shouldn’t be financed though Medicare cuts. Republicans maintained that their CHIP budget is reasonable.

Prior to that, the Senate Finance Committee enjoyed strong bipartisan support and advanced its version of the bill with a voice vote — of the 14 Senators present, who represented both sides of the aisle, there was one objection.

Approval for CHIP reauthorization will happen eventually. However, the delay in Congress has created uncertainty at the local level, where states need to make decisions about their own budgets. An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 11 states will exhaust their CHIP funding by the end of this year without federal funding, leaving some children without coverage.

ANA expects each chamber’s bill will continue to advance toward the floor. Ultimately, the motivation to pass CHIP reauthorization remains strong. Much of the negotiation between House and Senate Democrats and Republicans will center on how to pay for the legislation. The House and the Senate will have to figure out a plan to fund the legislation before it goes to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

The Kaiser Family Foundation has created a great side-by-side comparison of the Senate and House bills.

ANA will continue to monitor progress on CHIP closely.