Amid a Monday-morning screed on Twitter about various grievances, President Donald Trump asserted that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act is “getting done.”
The “less expensive plans” Trump is touting are two forms of cheap, skimpy, health insurance his administration is currently putting together: short-term and Association Health Plans. The plans, which were extremely limited under President Obama, are expected to lure millions of people out of the individual market, driving up premiums for those who remain. Depending on how the Trump admin writes the final rules, insurers who sell the short-term and Association Health Plans could have the right to charge people more or reject them entirely based on their age, gender, and health status.
But many states, it seems, have not gotten the memo about Obamacare’s demise, and are moving full speed ahead with policies to shore up and expand the benefits of the ACA.
This week, in the culmination of a five-year political battle, Virginia’s governor is expected to sign a bill expanding Medicaid coverage under Obamacare to between 300,000 and 400,000 low-income, uninsured residents. Virginia’s House and Senate passed the bill late last week, something made possible by last November’s “blue wave” election that flipped 15 House seats. But in order to win crucial Republican votes to get the bill over the finish line, Democrats had to agree to tack on a work requirement — something advocates say will limit the number of people who can benefit from the expansion and may possibly be ruled illegal later this month.
As of this week, supporters of Medicaid expansion in Utah have gathered enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot for this November. A competing plan in the Republican-dominated state legislature would only partially expand Medicaid — to cover people only up to 100 percent of the federal poverty line, instead of the 138 percent required by Affordable Care Act expansions. Trump’s HHS would have to sign off on a partial expansion; whether it will is unknown.
And in Maine, a judge has ordered Medicaid foe Gov. Paul LePage (R) to cease his months-long effort to block the Medicaid expansion that voters approved in November from taking effect. The court slammed LePage for his “complete failure to act” and told him to submit the necessary paperwork to the federal government by June 11. LePage can, and likely will, appeal the ruling, dragging out the state’s Medicaid saga even longer.
Meanwhile, New Jersey became the second state in the nation to enact its own individual mandate — joining Massachusetts, whose mandate pre-dated the ACA. New Jersey will charge a penalty to those who don’t buy insurance and don’t qualify for a hardship exemption, and they will use the tens of millions of dollars they expect to collect to fund a reinsurance program expected to lower residents’ premiums. Vermont has also passed a bill to create an individual mandate, but it won’t go into effect until 2020.
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