As Iowa worked with the Department of Health and Human Services on a waiver aimed at stabilizing the state’s Obamacare marketplace, President Donald Trump personally intervened in late August and asked the department to reject the waiver, the Washington Post reported Thursday evening.
An unnamed person familiar with the exchange told the newspaper that Trump saw an article in the Wall Street Journal about Iowa’s plan, prompting him to try to intervene. Trump first tried contacting then-Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who was out of the country at the time, according to the report. He then reached Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which was working with Iowa on finessing its waiver request, and told her to reject Iowa’s proposal.
It’s unclear whether CMS will follow Trump’s directive. Some officials within the department are still pushing for approval of Iowa’s waiver, several unnamed Republicans told the Washington Post. Iowa has not yet heard from the federal government about whether the waiver will be approved, a spokesman for the state’s insurance commissioner told the Des Moines Register.
The Trump administration has made several moves to undermine the Affordable Care Act as the Republican-controlled Congress failed in its multiple attempts to repeal the law. HHS has slashed the budget for promoting and educating the public on Obamacare and reduced funding for navigators who help people sign up for health insurance through the marketplaces. The department also cancelled plans for regional directors to travel to states and help them prepare for open enrollment.
The President also has threatened to end cost-sharing reduction payments to help insurers who cover costs for low-income people with significant health needs. The uncertainty over the Trump administration’s plans for those payments has caused insurers to drop out of the marketplaces in some areas, while an end to the payments would likely cause premiums to skyrocket.