Health Care Changes

A Couple of Healthcare Bummers

Amid some worrisome news about health care costs for Baystate residents, you may have seen hopeful news that the President also talked about expanding health coverage opportunities to Association Health Plans (AHP).  These types of group plans have long offered promise for small business owners and self-employed individuals seeking affordable health coverage. Unfortunately, NAR reports that the Executive Order’s AHP provision does not appear to apply to independent contractors. In response, NAR is launching a plan to work with the Administration and Congress on regulatory and legislative changes needed to make Association Health Plans a workable option for REALTORS.

According to the Massachusetts State House News Service, payments by the federal government to states to keep health care costs down for certain low-income residents will now cease, after a Presidential executive order was signed late Thursday.  Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who is in the midst of determining health care costs for residents in Mass. Health Connector, has been fighting for continued cost-sharing reductions from the federal government – the governor says those reductions are worth $146 million in Massachusetts this year.  Now it appears the Mass. Health Connector may need to aggressively pursue contingency plans and higher premiums for current coverage.  Nationally, more than 6 million people benefit from the cost-sharing subsidies.  The cost-sharing subsidies can reduce a deductible of $3,500 to a few hundred dollars. According to news reports, the eliminated assistance is for consumers buying individual policies; people with employer coverage should be unaffected by the change.

Attorneys general in at least a dozen states, including California, Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts and New York, said they planned to sue the Trump administration to keep the subsidies in place.

The action came only hours after President Trump signed an executive order directing government agencies to design insurance plans that would offer lower premiums for less coverage than the level mandated in the Affordable Care Act.  Cheaper policies with fewer benefits and fewer protections.  The Retailers Association of Massachusetts, which stood behind President Trump at the signing, welcomed the move to make cheaper health-care plans available to their employees.

These announcements come just three weeks before the start of open enrollment, when many Americans who do not have health insurance through their employers can start picking their plans.