January 05,2021

Democratic Health Leaders Call On Trump To Abandon Proposed Rule Changes Making Health Care More Expensive And More Difficult To Access

In Letter to Trump Administration, Top Democrats Say Ending Enrollment through Healthcare.gov and State Exchanges Will Lead to Reduced Coverage, More Junk Insurance, and Higher Costs

Washington, D.C. – House and Senate Democratic health care leaders called on the Trump administration to rescind policies in a proposed rule that would allow states to end the use of Healthcare.gov and state exchanges to enroll consumers in coverage.

Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR), Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray, (D-WA), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and House Education and Labor Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA) sent the letter as families continue to face significant health care and financial challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These policies threaten to obstruct access to health care for millions of Americans by leaving more consumers uninsured, pushing more people into substandard coverage, and raising enrollees’ out-of-pocket costs,” the members wrote. “This proposal is reckless, harmful, and a blatant violation of federal law. We strongly urge the Administration to withdraw these policies and to instead put forward proposals that safeguard, rather than jeopardize, access to health care.” 

The proposed changes, a part of the Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters (NBPP) for 2022, would allow states to force consumers into a confusing, decentralized landscape of private brokers, agents or insurers in order to enroll in coverage. These private entities could push consumers into substandard junk plans that fail to cover essential health services such as mental health care, potentially exposing millions of Americans to medical debt. The proposal would also make it harder for families to enroll in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program because these private actors would not need to evaluate consumers’ eligibility for these programs. The proposed rule would also not require these private entities to make their content available in languages other than English for one year.

Other changes in the proposed rule would illegally undermine statutory safeguards around State Innovation Waivers, also known as Section 1332 waivers, and retain a premium calculation formula that results in consumers paying more for their health care than they otherwise would.

The letter, sent to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, calls on the administration to withdraw these proposals immediately.

Last month, Wyden, Murray, Neal, Pallone and Scott condemned similar changes that were approved as a part of a section 1332 waiver in Georgia.

The full letter can be found here.