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Dems want GAO to look at ObamaCare mandate

Dems want GAO to look at ObamaCare mandate
© Greg Nash

Two top House Democrats are asking the government’s watchdog to evaluate the Trump administration’s enforcement of the individual mandate, which is a key facet of ObamaCare.

The ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), and the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Richard Neal (Mass.), made the request to the Government Accountability Office in a letter.

The two want to know if the individual mandate was enforced for the 2016 tax year and if it will be in 2017. If it is not, they want to know what it will mean for premiums and stability in the marketplace, and also how the uncertainty surrounding the mandate's enforcement will effect health plans.

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Trump signed an executive order on Inauguration Day aimed at “minimizing the economic burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”

The order was vague in what exactly it could do, and Pallone and Neal are concerned the executive order is being used to stop enforcing the fee for not having health coverage.

“The Trump administration has sent strong signals about its intent to reduce or even eliminate enforcement of the individual mandate,” Pallone and Neal wrote. “We believe that these signals are contributing to higher health insurance premiums and increased instability in the marketplace.”

The individual mandate was meant to ensure that young and healthy people signed up for plans. Getting healthier people to enroll in health coverage is meant to balance out the cost of those who are sicker.

Insurers have filed initial rates and have cited uncertainty over the individual mandate and key payments to carriers as one of the reasons for increasing premiums, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis.

For example, Molina Healthcare of New Mexico requested an average 21 percent rate increase, and of that, 11 percent was because it assumed the individual mandate was weakly enforced, the analysis states.

The Trump administration has said that ObamaCare is a fundamentally flawed law.

The Health and Human Services Department points to premiums increasing by 25 percent last year, saying that “since ObamaCare went into effect under the previous administration, skyrocketing healthcare costs and fewer choices have become the norm.”