CA Likely Shielded From New HHS Regulations–But Not From Trump Threats to Defund $700M in Cost-Sharing Subsidies

Consumer advocates decried new regulations finalized Thursday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which would seek to increase premiums, deductibles, and cost-sharing for those enrolled in health insurance marketplaces like Covered California across the country. However, due to existing state law, many of the regulations is likely not to impact Californians, including:

* Shortening the open enrollment period for people to sign up for coverage by half;

* Putting in place more burdensome verification requirements for those signing up between open enrollment periods;

* Allowing the sale of skimpier plans that increase consumers’ out-of-pocket costs like deductibles;

* Weakening standards to ensure the value of coverage, and that a health plan includes an adequate network of providers.

While the impact of these proposals would be blunted in California because of existing state law and Covered California’s authority, we patient advocates worry about subsequent efforts to further sabotage the state’s health system–specifically President Trump’s threat to defund cost-sharing subsidies, worth over $700 million just to Californians.

President Trump railed against rising health care costs and high deductibles during his campaign, and yet his first health regulations are to attempt to increase those costs for consumers. No one voted for coverage that costs more and covers less–but that’s what these Trump regulations seek to do, as does his continued Congressional attempts to repeal and roll back health coverage. Even as other Trump threats loom, Californians thankfully have existing state patient protections against many of the negative impacts of this package of regulations. Existing state law or Covered California’s authority means we won’t need to shorten the open enrollment period or weaken our minimum standards with regard to the value of coverage or the need for an adequate network of providers, as proposed in these new federal rules.

While these particular regulations are likely not to trump our existing state consumer protections, President Trump has threatened to defund subsidies that would hit California hard, by over $700 million dollars, and spiking premiums for the millions in our individual insurance market by around 20%. The House GOP has a lawsuit that holds thousands of their own constituents hostage–over 600,000 Californian get these cost-sharing subsidies, which helps them keep coverage and get the care they need. President Trump needs to stop holding our health system hostage, and keep his promise to secure our insurance coverage rather than sabotage it.