Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are about to lock horns over Obamacare — part of a House-Senate clash that needs to be resolved by Friday to avert a government shutdown.
McConnell promised moderate GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine that he would prop up President Barack Obama’s signature health law in a must-pass, year-end spending bill — so long as she backs tax reform. But Ryan’s more conservative conference is flatly rejecting that idea and urging the Wisconsin Republican to stand firm against his Senate counterpart.
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Calls to fund CSRs and other payments to insurers in 2018 are rooted partly in a fundamental misunderstanding of why Obamacare premiums continue to rise. Although premium increases are to some degree attributable to the Administration’s cancellation of CSR payments, premium increases were considerable even for policies unaffected by the Administration’s decision.
Lavishing billions of federal dollars on the insurance industry in 2018 is misguided policy. Insurers have secured another round of rate hikes and, with them, billions more in federal premium subsidies. Nor are federal dollars necessary for a state to operate a successful risk-mitigation program, as Alaska has shown.
Trying to rush CSR and reinsurance payments out the door in 2018 will result in wasteful and unnecessary spending, and is more likely to create confusion than to produce the predictability lawmakers seek.
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Some Americans will be given several extra days to sign up for Obamacare insurance plans after the federal enrollment period officially ends Friday, amid long waits on the government’s enrollment phone line.
The seemingly imminent repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance requirement, which could happen next week as part of the final passage of Republicans’ broad tax overhaul, has focused attention on Congress’ potential next moves on health care, including a bipartisan plan to shore up the insurance markets.
But that plan, sponsored by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D., Wash.), is losing support as more health analysts say it could raise costs for many consumers. The bill would restore payments to insurers, allowing them to cut premiums, but in doing so it would reduce the tax credits that are pegged in part to the premium costs of certain plans.
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Pro-Obamacare lawmakers and activists are urging the Trump administration to allow a grace period for open enrollment so that people who have trouble using healthcare.gov are able to finish their applications.
The Trump administration has not said if it will allow a grace period, but an announcement about a final decision may not come until Friday.
During the 2015 and 2016 open enrollments, the Obama administration announced extensions on the same day as the deadline. The decision was made in 2015 to extend the deadline by two days because of “unprecedented demand,” and in 2016, the deadline was extended by four days as about 1 million people left their names at the call center to keep their place in line.
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Consumer advocates reported some glitches Monday in the final days for “Obamacare” sign-ups, although the Trump administration largely seemed to be keeping its promise of a smooth enrollment experience.
In Illinois, some consumers who successfully completed an application for financial assistance through HealthCare.gov got a message saying they would likely be eligible to buy a health plan, “but none are available to you in your area.”
That information was incorrect because every county in the nation currently has at least one health insurer offering plans under the Affordable Care Act for next year.
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Shopping to update your coverage on the health insurance marketplace may be annoying — didn’t you just do this last year? But letting the exchange automatically renew your coverage instead could be a big mistake. If you don’t like the plan you’re auto-enrolled in this year you may be stuck with it in 2018, unlike previous years when people could generally switch.
It’s all in the timing. This year, the open enrollment period, which started Nov. 1, will end a week from today, on Dec. 15 in most states. On Dec. 16, if you haven’t picked a new plan, the marketplace will generally re-enroll you in the one you’re in this year or another one with similar coverage.
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Health insurance a la carte?
As the Affordable Care Act open-enrollment season moves into its final weeks, some consumers looking for lower-cost alternatives are considering a patchwork approach to health insurance. The products may secure some basic protection but leave patients on the hook for high medical bills.
The idea involves mixing and matching several types of insurance products originally designed to cover the deductibles and other gaps in traditional coverage.
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Cyndee Weston can barely remember the last time she didn’t have to switch health plans during an Affordable Care Act sign-up season. By her count, she has been on five plans in five years.
Every fall, after she has spent months figuring out her insurance plan’s deductibles, doctor networks, list of covered drugs and other fine print, she receives notice that the policy will be canceled as of Dec. 31. Because her job doesn’t come with insurance, “it’s agonizing going through all the plans and trying to compare,” said Weston, 55, who has diabetes and a history of melanoma. “Every year it’s the same scenario: ‘We’re not going to renew your policy.’”
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House conservatives said they won’t support a short-term spending bill to fund the government if it contains provisions to “bail out” insurance companies.
A deal between moderate GOP Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would likely attach two bipartisan measures to stabilize ObamaCare’s insurance markets to the spending bill in exchange for her vote on tax reform.
But conservatives say that wouldn’t pass the House.
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