Pennsylvanians Hit Hard After Trump Drops Low Income Cost-Sharing Subsidies

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When President Trump decided to end the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing reduction payments, which were designed to help low-income Americans get health care, he was met with a barrage of criticism from people on both sides of the aisle.

Many warned Trump that, by not paying the subsidies, he could end up seriously destabilizing the health insurance exchanges. That’s exactly what seems to be happening in Pennsylvania, just five days after Trump made his big announcement.

On Monday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Pennsylvania insurers that offer Obamacare plans will need to raise premiums an average 30.6 percent in 2018. This is nearly four times the increase that was anticipated before Trump decided to end the cost-sharing subsidies.

Acting Commissioner Jessica Altman told the Post-Gazette that she was disappointed by the news:

‘It is with great regret that I must announce approved rates that are substantially higher than what companies initially requested.

‘This is not the situation that I hoped we would be in, but due to President Trump’s refusal to make cost-sharing reduction payments for 2018 and Congress’ inaction to appropriate funds, it is the reality that state regulators must face and the reason rate increases will be higher than they should be across the country.

‘The president’s deliberate action and Congress’s failure to appropriate these funds despite repeated requests is forcing large rate increases on consumers in Pennsylvania and around the country, but my department is doing what we can to help our consumers understand their options and hopefully shield them from these rate increases.’

Altman also noted that only about 85,000 of the 426,000 Pennsylvanians who use the marketplace will see an increase in their premiums. This is because the incomes of many of those who get insurance through the marketplace are too high to be eligible for subsidies.

‘Most people on the exchange will be shielded from this increase. Our market was on the path to stability and now people and families are being used as pawns to show that the ACA is failing.’

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf also lashed out at Congress on Monday for failing to pass health a law to repeal and replace the ACA.

Wolf said Congressional leaders were “complicit in rate increases across the country.”

He added:

‘Washington has utterly failed to make commonsense changes to fix our health care system and bolster the Affordable Care Act. They have pursued political goals instead of practice ones.’

Altman also encouraged individuals who do not qualify for premium subsidies to consider off-exchange options, which can be purchased through one of Pennsylvania’s five marketplace insurers or through an agent or broker licensed to sell on behalf of these companies.

‘While there has been much conversation this year regarding the Affordable Care Act’s future, it remains law. The benefits, consumer protections, and financial assistance that law provides are still available. I strongly encourage all Pennsylvanians who need coverage to use our plan comparison tool to find the best plan for them and protect their and their family’s health by enrolling in coverage for 2018.’

Featured image via RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images.