Trump health chief defends suspending ObamaCare payments

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Medicare and Medicaid Administrator Seema Verma said the Trump administration was disappointed by a New Mexico court ruling that questioned the workings of the risk program for insurers.

Insurers rely on the funding, which serves as a backstop for those who wind up with a high share of costly enrollees. The so-called "risk adjustment" program takes payments from insurers with healthier customers and redistributes that money to companies with sicker enrollees.

In other words, Medicaid, CHIP and whatever other federal assistance is provided would be transformed into voucher programs, which has been the main aim of Trump and congressional Republicans. The other two, which were created to last only three years, ended after 2016. After three years, two programs expired, with only the risk adjustment program permanent as stipulated by the law.

"President Trump indicated his support for the plan the day after its publication, tweeting: "...on conservative health plan: "'The White House fully supports the efforts of the broad coalition from around the country working to address the Obamacare disaster and increase affordable healthcare options for middle-class Americans'". In February, 20 Republican state attorneys general filed suit in federal court charging that Congress's changes to the ACA in last year's tax bill rendered the entire law unconstitutional.

In justifying the cuts, CMS said the program is an "established marketplace" heading into its sixth year, so many people are more familiar with it.

One of the most popular parts of the Affordable Care Act: the fact no one can be denied coverage, regardless of pre-existing conditions. It's also taken other actions recently that will increase costs.

Even with these concerns, insurers are more confident about participating in Obamacare.

Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer Jr. said that as of now he doesn't expect the latest decision to interrupt the state's rate-setting process.

How insurers react in the short term could depend on whether they were expected to contribute or to receive funding.

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Molina and Centene could each avoid $1 billion in payments into the pool for 2017, according to Jefferies.

Sen. Ron Wyden of OR, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement that urging navigators to promote non-ACA plans amounts to "federally funded fraud: paying groups to sell unsuspecting Americans on junk plans that allow insurance companies to deny care on a whim and charge whatever they want is nothing but a scam".

The Trump White House has been busy separating migrant families and plotting the demise of Roe v. Wade in recent weeks, but don't worry: they haven't forgotten about their quest to make it harder for Americans to obtain adequate health insurance.

Though insurers may eventually get the funds once the administration revises the formula, the move is sending shudders through the industry.

The agency once again defended the decrease by saying that navigators, which usually hail from non-profit and community organizations, are not effective.

Jodi Ray, who leads the University of South Florida's navigator program - the largest one in the state - said her staffers do much more than help with enrollment.

But CareFirst and Kaiser could ask to adjust their rates higher given the Trump administration's decision.

If you're been buying insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchanges, here's more news you need to know.

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