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Amid ACA repeal, White House pitches rules to keep health markets afloat

By Doug G. Ware
Amid ACA repeal, White House pitches rules to keep health markets afloat
President Donald Trump's administration on Wednesday proposed new rules and changes to the federal healthcare system intended to crack down on abuses and stabilize insurance exchanges amid GOP efforts to repeal former President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 15 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump's administration on Wednesday took action to try and stabilize healthcare marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act to make sure they don't collapse next year.

Since he took office, Trump has led the charge to repeal President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, but doing so without a replacement program in place has put some of the insurance exchanges on shaky ground and has frightened providers.

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Wednesday, the White House proposed new rules that seek to steady the healthcare markets that are on the verge of breaking down due to ongoing uncertainty.

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"Obamacare continues to fail," Trump said in a tweet Wednesday. "Will repeal, replace & save healthcare for ALL Americans."

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One of the problems the rules aim to cut out are the number of people who wait until they need health insurance before they buy it. Many insurers, including Humana, have abandoned the program, citing unbalanced risk pools -- too many sick people drawing on coverage and not enough healthy people paying into the system to even things out.

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One of the rules would require customers to provide documented proof that they should be able to buy insurance outside the open enrollment period -- a practice that was fairly lax under Obama's administration. Another seeks to shorten that open enrollment period to about six weeks. The last enrollment, which just ended Jan. 31, lasted for 13 weeks.

"This proposal will take steps to stabilize the Marketplace, provide more flexibility to states and insurers, and give patients access to more coverage options," acting Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator Dr. Patrick Conway said in a statement. "[The new rules] will help protect Americans enrolled in the individual and small group health insurance markets while future reforms are being debated."

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The proposal says tighter enrollment will "place downward pressure on premiums, curb abuses, and encourage year-round enrollment."

Some insurers have taken steps to stabilize the system, such as increasing coverage premiums. The results, though, have been tepid.

"Patients and families across the country are seeing fewer choices and facing higher costs," Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., said.

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Some Democrats are scolding Trump and congressional Republicans for scrambling to find a solution for a problem they created.

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"Republicans' reckless and irresponsible plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act is already taking health care away from the American people and causing confusion and instability in the insurance market," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. "Anyone losing access to their insurance has only President Trump and congressional Republicans to blame."

The rules will be posted the Federal Register on Friday for public comment.

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