Eric Galatas, Public News Service – CO

DENVER – Consumer advocates warn that President Trump’s decision to stop payments to health-insurance companies will hit middle-class families the hardest through increased premiums and could end up unraveling the marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act for people who don’t get insurance through their jobs.

Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, said he believes it’s part of an overall pattern to sabotage former President Obama’s signature legislation.

“So, while Trump has said he will ‘let’ Obamacare fail, he is not ‘letting’ it fail,” Fox said. “He is actively creating conditions to bring about its failure, and consumers are going to be hurt because of it.”

Even without federal reimbursements, Fox said, insurance companies still are required to provide “cost-sharing reductions,” which make access to care possible for low-income people by lowering deductibles and co-pays. He said the only way insurers can make up for Trump’s cancelled check is to pass those costs on to other consumers.

Trump has claimed the move, and his decision to allow policies that don’t meet ACA standards, will give more people affordable care at no cost to the federal government.

Fox predicted that Colorado will be hit harder than many states because a higher percentage of residents earn too much to qualify for help with their premiums. He said nearly 35 percent of Coloradans in the individual market could see their insurance rates increase by one-third next year.

The federal government stands to lose a lot more in lost tax revenue than the ACA’s annual $7 billion cost-sharing reductions, Fox added.

“It’ll actually increase the federal deficit,” he said. “Over the next 10 years, we expect the federal government to pay an additional almost $200 billion for advance premium tax credits than they would have otherwise.”

Fox said Congress still can pre-empt Trump’s decision. A bipartisan effort led by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., to reinstate the cost-sharing reductions could be introduced as early as this week.

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