The Trump administration blocked a move that would have wrecked Obamacare

  • Seema Verma, the administrator for HHS’ Centres for Medicare & Medicaid Services, blocked a move by the state of Idaho that would have undermined Obamacare.
  • Verma said that Idaho’s new plan to let insurers sell plans that did not comply with Obamacare ws not legally permissible.
  • Health policy experts were closely watching the Idaho situation because it could have opened the door for other states to flaunt the rules of Obamacare.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced it will block a new health care initiative by the state of Idaho, preventing the state from circumventing key Obamacare rules.

Seema Verma, the administrator for HHS’ Centres for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said in a release Thursday that the governor of Idaho was informed of the decision.

Idaho’s new process would have allowed insurers to sell plans that did not comply with regulations that are part of Obamacare, which is formally named the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as long as the company also sold ACA-compliant plans.

Blue Cross of Idaho announced soon afterwards that the insurer would offer these skinny plans which would have charged sick people more than healthy people.

Verma said that while Idaho’s desire to bring down costs – the stated reason for the policy – was admirable, it was also illegal.

“CMS is committed to working with states to give them as much flexibility as permissible under the law to provide their citizens the best possible access to healthcare,” Verma said. “However, the Affordable Care Act remains the law, and based on our review of Idaho Bulletin No. 18-01, CMS has reason to believe that Idaho would be failing to substantially enforce the provisions in Part A of title XXVII of the Public Health Service Act (the Part A market requirements) as amended by the ACA.”

Experts raised concerns about both the legality of the move and the changes to the insurance market in Idaho as a result. For sick people who needed the coverage of a more generous ACA-compliant plan removing healthy people from the market would have likely driven up prices.

In the event that a state does not enforce the ACA, the HHS is technically obligated to step in and enforce the law. Health policy experts were curious to see whether the Trump administration came in given its history of undermining the ACA over the past year.

If Idaho was allowed to move ahead it could have opened the door for other conservative states to flout the law but, for now, that opening appears to have been shut.