Sabotage

Five weeks ago, when Idaho Governor "Butch" Otter announced that Idaho had decided to basically just blow off federal law altogether and start offering non-ACA compliant health insurance policies on the individual market alongside the compliant versions, I wrote:

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure I understand why Idaho would do this. Yes, of course the deep red state government opposes the ACA in general and sure, they want to "lower premiums" on the individual market, but Trump's recent "ShortAss Plan" executive order would do pretty much the same thing (allowing non-ACA compliant off-exchange "Short Term/Association Plans" which amount to the same thing...without putting GOP Gov. Butch Otter's fingerprints all over the ugly stories which would soon follow if/when people started actually enrolling in these types of policies. Besides, as much as Idaho claims to hate the ACA, they seem to be quite proud (and rightly so) of their own state-based ACA exchange, Your Health Idaho.

Well, it sounds like CMS Administrator Seema Verma was thinking along the same lines, because this unexpected story broke a few hours ago: Verma sent a letter to Otter and his state Insurance Commissioner shooting down their "state-based plans" idea as being flat-out illegal.

Today, Covered California issued a new study about the projected impact of Donald Trump and Congressional Republican efforts to undermine and sabotage the Affordable Care Act not just in 2019, but over the next 3 years. They main focus is on two sabotage moves which have already happened (repeal of the individual mandate and the shortened/underfunded marketing of the open enrollment period on the federal exchange) and one which is on the verge of happening (Trump's "Short Term and Association Plan" executive order, aka #ShortAssPlans).

Here's what they concluded:

Thanks to Twitter follower "@tweetmix" for bringing this to my attention.

Back in late January, I noted that while the ACA's Shared Responsibility Penalty (aka the Individual Mandate) was repealed by Congressional Republicans back in December, ithe repeal doesn't actually go into effect until spring 2020 (for lacking coverage in 2019). For 2017 and 2018, it's still on the books...and the IRS has stated point-blank that they will be rejecting tax returns that don't include a statement of ACA-compliant coverage. This, I noted, is going to piss off a whole bunch of confused people who are under the assumption tthat the mandate penalty has already been repealed. My suspicions were confirmed by last week's Kaiser Family Foundation survey, which found that sure enough, at least 21% of the country incorrectly thinks that they don't have to pay a fine for not having compliant coverage this year.

Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has decided to shut down Donald Trump's #ShortAssPlans executive order before it starts infecting the Evergreen State (yes, that's their official nickname...I looked it up):

Kreidler announces intention to being rulemaking on short-term medical plans

March 6, 2018

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler announced his intention today to begin rule-making to create protections for Washington consumers who buy short-term medical plans. He is taking this action in response to the recent rules the Trump administration proposed to increase the duration of short-term medical plans from 90 days to up to 364 days.

In a statement last week, Kreidler shared his concerns about short-term medical plans:

SOME GUY, OCTOBER 2017:

With the 2018 Open Enrollment Period coming up just 5 days from now, it's time to put this to bed: After 6 months of painstaking research and analysis, I've compiled a comprehensive analysis of the weighted average rate changes for unsubsidized ACA-compliant individual market policies in 2018, including both the on- and off-exchange markets. It's already been confirmed by a different analysis by healthcare consulting firm Avalere Health, which used a completely different methodology to arrive at the exact same conclusion: The national average increase is between 29-30%, ranging from as low as a 22% average premium drop in Alaska (thanks to their successful reinsurance program) to as high as a painful 58% increase in Virginia.

“But the plans were on display…”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”

--Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Over a year and a half ago, I noticed that aside from the usual names being listed as insurance carriers offering individual market policies in various states (Humana, Molina, Blue Cross Blue Shield, etc), there was one other name which kept popping up over and over again: "Freedom Life":

Covered California’s Executive Director Addresses Harvard Study on Impact of Eliminating Individual Mandate on Enrollment and Premium

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee issued the following statement in connection with the Harvard Medical School Study, “Eliminating the Individual Mandate Penalty in California: Harmful but Non-Fatal Changes in Enrollment and Premiums,”published in Health Affairs. The Harvard study, conducted by a team lead by Dr. John Hsu, is the first national effort to measure the potential impacts of removing the individual mandate penalty based on surveying actual California consumers about their likely actions in the face of there being no penalty.

via Covered California, yesterday:

  • An analysis of potential premium changes in states across the nation shows increases of 16 to 30 percent likely in 2019 if federal steps are not taken.
  • While the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s subsidies would largely insulate subsidized consumers from these costs, millions of unsubsidized consumers would pay the full price of these increases. Many would likely be priced out of coverage.
  • Continued policy and premium uncertainty risks further carrier withdrawals, leaving more consumers with only one health plan and even the prospect of “bare counties.”
  • The analysis reviews three federal policy options that could stabilize markets and mitigate the impact of premium increases in many states.
  • Covered California’s open-enrollment period is still underway and consumers have through Jan. 31 to sign up for coverage.

Welp. The Republicans did it. And later today, barring some dramatic last-minute development, the GOP Tax Scam is gonna be signed into law.

UPDATE: It's done. It passed the GOP House, GOP Senate and GOP House (again). Trump's signing it at any moment.

The GOP Tax Scam does many terrible things, of course, many of which are worse than repealing the ACA’s individual mandate. And even within the healthcare arena, the $25 billion PAYGO Medicare cut caused by the GOP tax scam is arguably more damaging overall.

Still, ACA stuff is my wheelhouse, so I’ll stick to the direct impact the bill (if it does become law) would have on the Affordable Care Act.

Above is the video explainer I whipped up a few weeks ago. It’s long and a bit wonky, but it should give a pretty good overview of the situation.

What about the two “market stabilization” bills that Susan Collins was supposedly demanding in return for her “Yes” vote? Yeah, about those:

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