Trump administration cuts grants to help people get Obamacare

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This May 21, 2018 image shows the main page of the healthcare.gov website in Washington.

In its latest move to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Trump administration is suspending billions of dollars in payments under the legislation known as risk adjustment.

The federal agency that oversees the "navigator" program said that up to $10 million will be available for outreach organizations in 34 states that use the federal marketplace.

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"My belief here is that CMS is picking and choosing which court ruling to act on", said Sean Creighton, vice president of the Avalere consulting firm, "It is very unusual that administration would decide to freeze payment given that there are two opinions in different courts". Add Health Care Overhaul as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Health Care Overhaul news, video, and analysis from ABC News. In President Barack Obama's previous year in office, $63 million was spent on it.

Since Congress was unable to pass such a law, Trump and his aides have been taking a series of steps to weaken the law through administration maneuvers.

The president last fall also issued an executive order to try to make it easier for individuals and small businesses to buy health plans that cost less than ACA coverage because they cover fewer medical services and bypass the law's rules meant to protect people from old insurance practices in which companies had charged higher prices to women, older people, and those with preexisting medical conditions. Association health plans were expanded earlier this year by the administration as a lower cost offering for Americans. The Department of Health and Human Services is finishing another rule that will lengthen the duration allowed for short-term insurance plans that were originally intended as a brief bridge for people between jobs.

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In past years, CMS announced funding opportunities in April and required navigator groups to apply for grants by mid-June. "This decision reflects CMS' commitment to put federal dollars for the Federally-facilitated Exchanges to their most cost effective use in order to better support consumers through the enrollment process". But next year, ACA navigators - the trained instructors who explain health benefits and help people enroll - will be harder to find as a result of federal funding cuts. Taken together, these moves will have the effect of damaging the ACA's marketplaces by attracting younger, healthier people, while forcing older, sicker people to either pay more for insurance or purchase sub-par insurance that might not cover services they need. That's because on Tuesday, CMS announced another major cutback to its health insurance counseling program. The imposition of work requirements will not "dignify" program recipients and "lift them out of poverty", but will in many cases bump them off the benefit rolls through onerous requirements.

As for the priority given to applicants that help spread the word about non-ACA health plans, Edwards said: "It's inappropriate". These are people who are not going to go to an insurance agent or broker.

"Yes, the money matters, but what's more important is (insurers) being clear on the rules of the road so they can run a business properly", said Ceci Connolly, CEO of the Alliance of Community Health Plans, an industry group for nonprofit, community-based insurers.

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