Washington’s insurance commissioner says no changes are expected overnight after President Trump signed a new executive order on health care, paving the way for significant changes to the individual market.
“This one we're going to be following very, very closely to make sure the worst doesn't happen by virtue of what’s been proposed right now,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler.
The president’s executive order directs federal agencies to come up with new rules to expand access to less expensive, less comprehensive plans, exempt from some of the Affordable Care Act's strict regulations.
Proposed changes include the ability for trade associations to band together, buy across state lines and offer short-term plans.
“It's going to allow more choices at a lower cost, in the health insurance market especially for individuals and small groups,” said Dr. Roger Stark, a critic of the Affordable Care Act. “Association health plans are going to allow these individuals to enjoy same benefits that large groups and large employers do.”
“Obamacare is collapsing,” said Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-5th District. “The steps taken today by President Trump are a good start.”
While supporters of the administration’s actions believe it will boost competition and lower cost, critics fear it will undermine Obamacare and create more uncertainty in an already unstable market.
“Since this President took office, he has done everything he can to sabotage the health care system in order to say it doesn’t work and we need to repeal Obamacare. This is part of that effort, and it will have an impact,” said Senator Patty Murray, ranking Democrat on the Senate Health Committee.
“What it means, if he can accomplish this, people will be able to buy cheap insurance plans that look good, but then when they get sick and go to the hospital, they won’t be covered,” said Murray. “It takes away the key protections you know you have when you buy insurance today, if it can be implemented the way he’s saying.”
It’s expected to take months or longer to write the new rules and undergo the review process. The Insurance Commissioner’s Office says the changes will not impact the upcoming enrollment process.
“That’s the problem we’re trying to address,” said Senator Murray, who has been working with Republican Senator Lamar Alexander since September on a bi-partisan proposal to try to stabilize the market.
Senator Murray has blamed continued uncertainty over the administration’s funding of ACA subsidies known as cost-sharing reductions for this year’s rate hikes.
"The reason that insurance prices are going up double digits right now is because the president has been threatening he’s going to stop making what is called CSR payments that provide stability to the insurance market," said Murray. " So far he’s made them, but now he says he’s done. So, insurance companies when they look at their rates know they’re not going to have them and they charge more for their policies. That’s why we’re seeing such huge increases. What Sen. Alexander and I are trying to do are trying to assure those CSRs payments will be made so those insurance rates will come down."
“The other thing that Senator Alexander and I are trying to do is work within a waiver system that’s under the current law that allows states to be a little more flexible and apply for waivers, so they can manage their markets better. That will help us, not tomorrow, but it certainly will help us over the next year or two, and that’s one thing I’m very focused on.
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