HARTFORD, CT — President Donald Trump followed through on his threats to eliminate subsidies for some of the poorest individuals receiving their health insurance through the Obamacare exchanges.
Since the funding for those cost-sharing reduction payments, which go right to insurance carriers to lower the co-payments, deductibles and co-insurance, were never appropriated by Congress the Trump administration decided to “discontinue” them.
What does this mean for Connecticut?
It means Connecticut’s two insurance carriers won’t receive $50 million to offset the help they give to low-income customers. There are about 48,000 consumers in the state helped by those subsidies.
Nationwide the payment is around $7 billion annually to help about 7 million Americans afford coverage.
Also since Trump has eliminated the payments immediately, the carriers won’t receive their November and December payments. It’s unclear if the October payment will be made. There is no way for the carriers to make up for those losses.
America’s Health Insurance Plans and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association said the action will make it harder for patients to access the care they need.
“Costs will go up and choices will be restricted,” the two industry groups said.
A spokeswoman for ConnectiCare Benefits said it’s “devastating news for beneficiaries who depend on this assistance to help offset the costs of their health care coverage.”
In Connecticut the rate filing process included a provision to account for the potential loss of these payments.
“While we prepared our rates accordingly, the impact will still undoubtedly be felt by thousands of people in Connecticut who benefitted from this commitment by the federal government,” Kim Kann, public relations and corporate communications director, said. “These payments are not intended to help insurance companies. They are first and foremost to provide financial support for low-income beneficiaries, ensuring they have access to the health care they need.”
Without any guarantees from Washington, Connecticut’s insurance regulators decided to allow two carriers to boost their premiums for plans on the individual market in 2018 by an average of 31.7 percent for Anthem and 27.7 percent for ConnectiCare Benefit customers.
On Sept. 13, the two insurance carriers Anthem and ConnectiCare Benefits, said they will participate in 2018.
The two carriers had until Sept. 15 to make a decision about whether they would continue offering plans on the exchange in 2018. The elimination of the CSR’s could give them the legal leverage they need to back out.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the elimination of the CSR’s “is vindictive and deliberately designed to sabotage healthcare insurance markets throughout the nation.”
He said premium costs will continue to rise and put healthcare out of reach for many.
“While President Trump may turn his back on millions of Americans, I vow to do all that I can to fight back,” Malloy said.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said Friday that Trump is having a temper tantrum over Congress’ inability to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“Let’s call this what it is—the president is intentionally hurting every American because he’s having a temper tantrum over Republicans’ unwillingness to repeal the Affordable Care Act,” Murphy said. “Families in Connecticut will see their health care costs skyrocket because Donald Trump is having a bad week.”
He said that’s why reaching a bipartisan consensus on healthcare was so urgent.
“If Republicans reject commonsense bipartisan compromise, they will own every scrap of what’s left of the American health care system when Donald Trump is through with it,” Murphy added.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said the president’s continued sabotage of the ACA is “mean-spirited, rash, irrational – and apparently boundless.”
He said a bipartisan solution “our only hope to counter the health care tragedy.”
The decision to eliminate the payments will increase the national debt by $194 billion by 2026 because the higher premiums will force the government to pay more in subsidies, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Insurance companies have confirmed that eliminating cost sharing payments account for an 18 percent increase in costs for Connecticut families.
James Wadleigh, CEO of Access Health CT, which is Connecticut’s exchange, said consumers who are eligible for premium tax subsides will see very small increases as a result of the changes. However, consumers who don’t receive any financial assistance could see their premiums increase substantially. There were 25,000 individuals in 2017 who purchased plans and did not receive any subsidy.