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Insurers warn of rising premiums after Trump axes Obamacare payments again

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Health insurers warned that a move by the Trump administration on Saturday to temporarily suspend a program that was set to pay out $10.4 billion to insurers for covering high-risk individuals last year could drive up premium costs and create marketplace uncertainty.

The Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) “risk adjustment” program is intended to incentivize health insurers to cover individuals with pre-existing and chronic conditions by collecting money from insurers with relatively healthy enrollees to offset the costs of other insurers with sicker ones.

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President Donald Trump’s administration has used its regulatory powers to undermine the ACA on multiple fronts after the Republican-controlled Congress last year failed to repeal and replace the law propelled by Democratic President Barack Obama. About 20 million Americans have received health insurance coverage through the program known as Obamacare.

America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a trade group representing insurers offering plans via employers, through government programs and in the individual marketplace, said the CMS suspension would create a “new market disruption” at a “critical time” when insurers are setting premiums for next year.

“It will create more market uncertainty and increase premiums for many health plans – putting a heavier burden on small businesses and consumers, and reducing coverage options. And costs for taxpayers will rise as the federal government spends more on premium subsidies,” AHIP said in a statement.

It could also encourage more insurers to bow out of Obamacare.

“This is occurring right at the time of year that people (insurers) are making decisions about whether to participate in the exchanges and what premiums to charge if they do,” said Eric Hillenbrand, a managing director at consultancy AlixPartners. “This will affect their thinking on both of those decisions.”

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which administers ACA programs, said on Saturday that months-old conflicting court rulings related to the risk adjustment formula prevent them from making payments.

CMS was referring to a February ruling from a federal court in New Mexico that invalidated the risk adjustment formula, and a January ruling from a federal court in Massachusetts that upheld it.

CMS administrator Seema Verma said in a statement the administration was “disappointed” in the February ruling and that CMS has asked the court to reconsider and “hopes for a prompt resolution that allows CMS to prevent more adverse impacts on Americans.”

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But supporters of the ACA criticized the CMS announcement as the latest move by the Trump administration to undermine Obamacare.

“We urge the Trump administration to back off of this dangerous and destabilizing plan, and instead begin working on bipartisan solutions to make coverage more affordable,” said Brad Woodhouse, the executive director of Protect Our Care, a progressive group that supports Obamacare.

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The administration has made several other moves in recent years to scale back or halt implementation of certain aspects of the ACA.

Late last year, it said it would halt so-called cost-sharing payments, which offset some out-of-pocket healthcare costs for low-income patients.

It has also scaled back the advertising budget for Obamacare healthcare plans during the open-enrollment period by about 90 percent.

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“What you are effectively doing is dismantling pieces of [the ACA] without replacing them,” Hillenbrand said. “It moves us back to some extent to the status quo where people with pre-existing conditions found it very difficult to get insurance.”

Additional reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb in Washington; Editing by Mary Milliken and James Dalgleish


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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WATCH: Protester scales Secret Service building to spray-paint profane anti-Trump message

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On Friday, protests around the country continued against the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

As CNN covered shots of protests in Washington, D.C., one demonstrator could clearly be seen scaling a Secret Service building, before taking out a can of spray paint and writing "F**K TRUMP" on the edifice.

Watch below:

Some commenters on social media noticed, and tweeted their support for the protester.

Just watched this white boy hero climb these bars & spray paint "FUCK TRUMP" on live TV. #BlackLivesMatter @CNN pic.twitter.com/89nLCK52fc

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Trump aide told investigators Paul Manafort began spreading Ukraine conspiracy theories as soon as DNC server hack was revealed

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On Friday, a new batch of documents recording the interviews former special counsel Robert Mueller's prosecutors held with aides to President Donald Trump was released, as part of a Freedom of Information Act request by BuzzFeed News.

One of the revelations in the interviews with Rick Gates, who served as an aide to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, was that Manafort began pushing conspiracy theories about Ukraine at the same time that the Russian hack into the Democratic National Committee became publicly known.

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CNN’s Jim Acosta walks through all the times Trump has ‘thrown gasoline’ on racial tension

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On CNN Friday, following President Donald Trump's abrupt exit from a press conference following a racially charged tweet, chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta broke down President Donald Trump's history of stoking racial tensions during moments of crisis.

"He is trying to clean up this tweet that he posted last night," said Acosta. "First, just what the president said a few moments ago. He said the looters in Minneapolis should not be able to drown out the voice of so many peaceful protesters. That, obviously, is a very mild version of what he was trying to say or he claims he was trying to say last night when he tweeted, "when the looting starts, the shooting starts." That obviously is an expression steeped in all kinds of ugliness. The Miami Police chief back in 1967, when there was unrest in that city, used that expression. George Wallace, the segregationist, used words like that in 1968."

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