By Noam Levey
Los Angeles Times, May 30, 2018
More than 95% of healthcare groups that have commented on President Trump’s effort to weaken Obama-era health insurance rules criticized or outright opposed the proposals, according to a Times review of thousands of official comment letters filed with federal agencies.
The extraordinary one-sided outpouring came from more than 300 patient and consumer advocates, physician and nurse organizations and trade groups representing hospitals, clinics and health insurers across the country, the review found.
State insurance regulators from both political parties have also warned that the administration’s proposals could destabilize insurance markets, raise premiums for sick Americans and open the door to insurance fraud.
And dozens of industry leaders and other experts have called on the administration to rethink moves to scale back consumer protections enacted through the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare.
“Basically anybody who knows anything about healthcare is opposed to these proposals,” said Sandy Praeger, a former Republican state insurance regulator in Kansas and onetime president of the National Assn. of Insurance Commissioners. “It’s amazing.”
After the failure to repeal the healthcare law last year, the Trump administration is weighing two controversial new rules to loosen regulations governing health plans. One would expand the availability of short-term coverage plans that last less than a year. The other would make it easier for self-employed Americans and small businesses to band together to form so-called association health plans.
These plans — which administration officials say will be more affordable — would not have to offer the full set of health benefits required under the 2010 law and in some cases could turn away sick customers.
Altogether, more than 95% — or 266 of 279 — of the healthcare groups that filed comments about the proposed association health plan regulation expressed serious concern or opposed it, the Times analysis found.
And more than 98% — or 335 of 340 — of the healthcare groups that commented on the proposal to loosen restrictions on short-term health plans criticized it, in many cases warning that the rule could gravely hurt sick patients.
Among the groups were virtually every leading patient advocate in the county, including the American Lung Assn., the American Heart Assn., the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the March of Dimes, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Susan G. Komen, AARP and the advocacy arm of the American Cancer Society.
Not a single group representing patients, physicians, nurses or hospitals voiced support in the public comments for the two Trump administration proposals.
These concerns were echoed by the leading health insurance trade groups, as well as many individual health insurers that cautioned that rates would only increase as looser rules further destabilized insurance markets across the country.
The Trump administration has not indicated when it will finalize the proposed new insurance regulations.
By Don McCanne, M.D.
Donald Trump, Alex Azar and Seema Verma just don’t get it. Everyone, expect for a few ideologues, agrees that the administration is mismanaging our nation’s health care policies. Obviously we need to change course.
The policies that would accomplish the goals of universality, access, equity, and affordability are not secret. They are those policies contained within a well designed, single payer, improved Medicare for all. We simply need an administration and Congress who agree and are willing to enact and implement such a system.
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