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Trump administration halts billions in Obamacare payments to health insurers
09 July 2018, 08:11 | Silvia Roy
The Trump administration is halting billions of dollars of payments to insurers under the Affordable Care Act's risk-adjustment program, a move that further disrupts the insurance market and could lead to more premium increases next year.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that oversees the program, is considering the temporary halt of payments to insurers this fall and next fall. Initially, the decision could affect $10.4 billion in payments tied to the 2017 benefit year, . "It will create more market uncertainty and increase premiums for many health plans - putting a heavier burden on small businesses and consumers, and reducing coverage options", AHIP said.
It has also scaled back the advertising budget for Obamacare healthcare plans during the open-enrollment period by about 90 percent.
America's Health Insurance Plans, the trade organization representing health insurers, issued a statement saying it was "discouraged" by the decision to freeze risk adjustment payments. The ruling from New Mexico US District Court Judge Thomas Browning, says the federal government has been using an "arbitrary and capricious" method to determine payments. "It moves us back to some extent to the status quo where people with pre-existing conditions found it very hard to get insurance".
"This decision will have serious consequences for millions of consumers who get their coverage through small businesses or buy coverage on their own. It will undermine Americans' access to affordable coverage, particularly for those who need medical care the most". The goal is for insurers to compete based on the value of their plans, not just attempting to attract healthier customers. The risk-adjustment program has been a source of frustration for small insurers and ACA co-ops that claim the formula makes their membership bases look healthier than they are.
"I think insurers are going to be watching very closely what the administration says in court, and whether this is a sign of further steps to undermine the law, or a good faith effort to try to comply with the judge's order", he says. The move brought a sharp response from health insurers warning of market disruptions and higher costs.
UK Brexit negotiator David Davis quits
George Freeman, May's former policy chief, said on Twitter that a " no deal " Brexit "just got a lot more likely". The Tory leader's hard-won proposal was agreed to at her Chequers country retreat after marathon talks on Friday.
West Nile virus found in mosquitoes in Lake County
In 2017, only 18 horse and mules had contracted the disease, but in 2016 that number peaked at 138 animals; 380 nationwide. Farmers, ranchers, along with agricultural operations statewide, are also at risk from mosquito problems.