Adam Fox

As if health care costs in Colorado weren’t already a challenge, a new study released by the independent Urban Institute indicates that things will get worse in 2019.

According to the study, premiums in Colorado are expected to jump by 18 percent for tens of thousands of Coloradans, caused by the administration’s expansion of short-term health plans, the latest in the sabotage of consumer protections in health care. The study also shows this decision will drive 150,000 Coloradans off real coverage, leaving them uninsured or underinsured — all while increasing federal spending by billions.

This continues the systematic campaign to roll back the Affordable Care Act that started with attempts at all-out repeal and now is best characterized as death by a thousand cuts. In 2018, President Donald Trump’s administration has put forward a new regulation or executive action to sabotage health care almost every week. The president openly brags about wiping out the ACA “piece by piece.” This sabotage will take a serious toll on Colorado families.

The administration’s decision allows insurers to sell short-term insurance plans that aren’t, well, short term and do not have to comply with consumer protection standards under the ACA. This adds to the already proposed regulations to expand association health plans, which also do not have to provide consumer protections. A recent Avalere Health study shows association health plans would shift an additional 3.2 million Americans into skimpy health plans that don’t provide basic coverage, while also increasing premiums for real health insurance plans.

Expanding these garbage plans takes us back to the days when insurance corporations could discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, charge more or refuse to renew if you got sick and not offer essential medical services. This will create consumer confusion about whether people are buying major medical insurance plans and it will destabilize the insurance market.

These junk plan proposals follow a barrage of attacks on Medicaid. The Trump administration recently allowed states to seek waivers to include work requirements and other barriers for Medicaid recipients and several states have moved forward with such proposals.

Recently, the Protect Our Care Colorado coalition delivered a letter to Gov, John Hickenlooper, asking his office to oppose Medicaid work requirements because they are unnecessary, harm consumers and are counterproductive to their stated purpose. But Hickenlooper seemingly endorsed Medicaid work requirements at a press conference.

Work requirements serve no other purpose than to strip health care away from people who need it. The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing found that 76 percent of nonelderly adults and children enrolled in Medicaid in Colorado live in families with at least one part-time or full-time worker. The majority of people who are not working under Medicaid already have health conditions that prevent them from working, are taking care of family members or are in school. Medicaid work requirements only limit access to coverage and essential health services by adding administrative red tape.

All of this sabotage leads to even higher premiums, will leave fewer people insured and cost the government more money. The Trump administration and complicit members of Congress are wrong if they think that Coloradans won’t notice these backdoor attempts to repeal their health care. That’s the opposite of what people in Colorado want and enough is enough. Colorado rejected repeal last year and we reject death by a thousand cuts to our health care this year. It’s time to stop the war on health care.

Adam Fox is the director of strategic engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative and the organizer for the Protect Our Care Colorado coalition.

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