NEW YORK—The Trump administration on Wednesday proposed changes to the Obamacare individual insurance market that insurers welcomed as a good start but that others pointed out could raise out-of-pocket cost for consumers.
President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans have promised to scrap the 2010 healthcare law that is a key legacy of Democrat Barack Obama’s presidency. But they are struggling to agree on a replacement for the law, which extended health insurance to 20 million Americans.
The proposed new rule, issued by a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, sets out changes that are meant to shore up the system developed by Obama. It is unclear which elements of this system could survive in the Republicans’ replacement.
The rule does not address changes that must be made by law, such as for Obamacare’s income-based subsidies.
The changes would tighten enrollment processes and allow insurers to collect unpaid premium payments, making it tougher for people to move in and out of insurance plans. Insurers say “gaming the system” has created an unprofitable mix of healthy and sick customers.
Separately, the administration backed off implementing tougher oversight of the individual mandate, the requirement for all Americans to have health insurance or pay a fine, that was due to go into effect for 2016 taxes.
The U.S. Internal Revenue Service said as a result of Trump’s executive order to reduce regulatory burden, it will not reject tax filings for the year 2016 that fail to indicate whether they had health coverage or paid the penalty set under Obamacare. This is a return to the policy for 2015 taxes, the IRS said.
The mandate was supposed to bring in healthy customers but Republicans have vowed to overturn it and insurers say it has not worked.
Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini on Wednesday said during a Wall Street Journal forum that the Obamacare exchanges had entered a “death spiral” in which rising premiums pushed out the healthiest customers, which in turn raises rates.
Aetna cut back offering new plans for 2017 and it and Anthem Inc. have said that without changes, they might not take part after this year. Humana Inc on Tuesday said it was pulling out of this market altogether for 2018.
Bertolini said in a statement that new Health Secretary Tom Price and the Trump administration have “taken some good initial steps with the proposed regulation.” The top two industry groups, America’s Health Insurance Plans and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, echoed that view.