For some lower-income people in Obamacare, the rising premiums President Donald Trump has talked so much about will barely be felt at all. Others, particularly those with higher incomes, will feel the sharp increases when insurance sign-ups begin Wednesday.

Richard Taylor is one of the people on the wrong end. The 61-year-old, self-employed Oklahoman has meticulously tracked his medical costs since 1994. In 2013, he signed up for an Affordable Care Act plan for the law’s first year offering coverage to millions of Americans.
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Democrats are accusing the Trump Administration of “sabotaging” Obama Care by discontinuing illegal subsidies to insurers, but last week even an Obama-appointed judge in California said otherwise. The ruling deserves more public attention.

Federal Judge Vince Chhabria rejected and ridiculed a petition by 18 states to enjoin the White House from stopping cost-sharing reduction payments (CSRs) that subsidize lower copays and deductibles for consumers on the exchanges who earn less than 250% of the poverty line. “It appears initially that the Trump Administration has the stronger legal argument,” the judge noted, adding that “the emergency relief sought by the states would be counterproductive.”
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Suggestions to improve the bipartisan health care bill from Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) include: 1) Increase the threshold for requiring employers to offer health benefits to 200 full-time employees from the current 50; 2) Broaden the use of tax-advantaged accounts; 3) Add a provision creating a federal reinsurance fund to help finance care for America’s most expensive patients; 4) Loosen the existing rules to encourage growth of interstate sales of health-care policies; 5) Repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a panel of appointed officials that is supposed to constrain the growth of Medicare costs.

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In an odd twist, low-income people in about half of U.S. counties will now be able to get a taxpayer-subsidized ACA policy for free. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that in 1,540 counties a hypothetical 40-year-old making $25,000 a year can get a basic “bronze” plan under the ACA next year for zero monthly premium. This could become a springboard for marketing pitches by insurers as they try to sign up more consumers.

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The House and the Trump administration are asking to keep a pause on a years-long court battle over the legality of crucial ObamaCare payments to insurers, while Democratic attorneys general are seeking for the case to proceed.

In 2014, the House sued the Obama administration, arguing it was funding key payments to insurers illegally, alleging that there wasn’t a direct appropriation from Congress. The House won, and the Obama administration appealed the ruling.
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President Donald Trump called Wednesday for repealing the Obamacare individual mandate in a tax overhaul, a day before House GOP leaders planned to unveil a bill without that provision.

In a pair of tweets, Trump said: “Wouldn’t it be great to Repeal the very unfair and unpopular Individual Mandate in ObamaCare and use those savings for further Tax Cuts for the Middle Class. The House and Senate should consider ASAP as the process of final approval moves along.”
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Here’s a strange paradox: Health-care costs have increased by an unsustainable rate of about 8.5% each year over the past decade, according to PwC’s Health Research Institute. Already, the average employer-based family health insurance plans costs more than $18,000 annually.

But Medicare spending has been relatively stable. Over the past three years, the program’s payouts to hospitals have increased by only 1% to 3% a year, roughly even with inflation. The prices paid for some core services, such as ambulance transportation, have actually gone down.

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The Oct. 26 editorial “Health-care reform that pays off” unfairly maligned a bill introduced by two committee chairmen as “dismantling major pieces of Obamacare.” It does nothing of the sort.

Like the bill proposed by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) that the editorial praised, a bill from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) would appropriate money for cost-sharing-reduction subsidies. That’s not nearly enough to provide relief to consumers, who are leaving health-insurance markets in droves. Gallup reported that the uninsurance rate in the third quarter of 2017 reached its highest level since 2014, as the Affordable Care Act makes insurance unaffordable.

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Federal health officials are proposing changes to rules for coverage sold through the ACA’s insurance marketplaces that, starting in 2019, would let states alter the benefits that health plans must provide and limit enrollment help for consumers. In envisioning a larger role for states in setting benefits, the draft rule would still require ACA plans to cover 10 categories of medical services. But for the first time, any state could adopt benefits standards already in use by another state—or rewrite its own standards.

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The Trump administration on Friday proposed new health insurance regulations that could affect basic benefits required by the Affordable Care Act, but not for a couple of years.

Loosening “Obamacare” benefit requirements was a major sticking point for congressional Republicans in thus-far fruitless efforts to repeal the law.

The complex new plan from the administration would give states a potential path to easing some requirements.
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