Health Care

Trump officials create new exemptions to ObamaCare mandate


The Trump administration on Monday created new exemptions to ObamaCare’s individual mandate, part of a slew of changes unveiled in regulations for the law’s marketplaces next year.

Trump officials said that while the health-care law remains on the books, they are doing the best they can to work within their authority to open up new flexibility for people.

The mandate changes would exempt people from having to pay the penalty for lacking insurance if they live in a county with no insurers offering coverage or only one insurer, or if the only insurance plans available cover abortions, in violation of their beliefs.

The mandate has been repealed by Congress for everyone starting Jan. 1, 2019, but this change would provide new exemptions while it is still in effect this year.

{mosads}Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said on a call with reporters that the administration is “intently looking for ways within the law to alleviate its negative effects,” until Congress is able to more broadly dismantle ObamaCare.

Other changes announced Monday include additional flexibility for states to change the Essential Health Benefits, the list of health services that insurance plans must cover. Those changes are not drastic, though, given that all major services must still be covered.

The administration is also stepping up eligibility checks to make sure people are supposed to receive financial assistance under the law. Officials said they worried some low-income people in states that have not expanded Medicaid were overestimating their income, so that it becomes over the poverty level, thereby qualifying them for tax credits to help afford premiums on the law’s private marketplaces.

Officials did not take steps to block states from steps they have taken to mitigate President Trump’s decision in October to cancel key ObamaCare payments known as cost-sharing reductions. But Verma left the door open to future changes to block the practice, known as “silver-loading,” which limits premium increases only to certain plans, thereby shielding most people from premium hikes.

“That policy is currently under review,” Verma said.

Tags Donald Trump

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