For Latino voters, health care is a top issue as Obamacare gains reverse under Trump

SAN ANTONIO — Larisa Alvarado, 36, feared she had the coronavirus when she woke up last week feeling an itch and pain in her leg that later advanced to swelling. She began running a fever and became nauseous.

A friend and poison control expert suggested her symptoms could be from a spider bite, and advised her to see a doctor. But before she went to an urgent care clinic, Alvarado first had to research the cost of a visit and of the medicine a doctor was likely to prescribe—to see if she could afford them.

That’s because she doesn’t have health insurance. Alvarado lost her job as a patient resource specialist with the American Cancer Society after the organization’s fundraising was hit due to the pandemic.

Alvarado is just one of more than 11.2 million Latinos in the United States who don’t have health insurance—in 2019, almost 17 percent of Hispanics didn’t have health coverage, the highest of any group. That was the figure from before the pandemic, which was already up from 10.22 million in 2016.

Now experts say that number is likely even higher given the pandemic’s disproportionate toll on the community.

As people lose work and health care benefits, it’s become an even tougher task to ensure residents get health coverage access, said Joe Ibarra, co-chair of EnrollSA, a coalition of organizations trying to boost insurance enrollment in the San Antonio area.

“In Texas, there is no expanded Medicaid. The rules are really harsh. Folks are losing coverage as a result of losing their jobs and they are left without good options,” Ibarra told NBC News.

Latinos gained the most under the Affordable Care Act after it was enacted in 2010, with about 4 million adults and 600,000 children gaining health care coverage by 2016.

As more people lose health insurance, the cost and the availability of coverage are top-tier issues for Hispanics this election cycle. Latinos rank it even ahead of jobs and the economy and place more importance on it than they did about this time in 2016.

Download the NBC News app for breaking news and alerts

“Latinos are going to the polls keeping health care in mind and their experience with Covid in mind and voting for change for their health and well-being,” Alberto Gonzalez, senior policy strategist at UnidosUS, a Latino civil rights organization, said.

Early in the election cycle, the GOP was pointing to record low unemployment rates Latinos were experiencing as reason to re-elect Trump, while Democrats countered that Hispanics were not economically stable if many had to work more than one job to make ends meet.

But the pandemic’s disproportionate effect on Latinos has forced a reckoning of the gaps in health care coverage, especially in states like Texas with a huge Hispanic population.

Fears of Covid-19 — without health insurance

Before Alvarado lost her job, she was already skimping on her health, forgoing therapy for carpal tunnel to save on the steep copay and deductibles. Now without health

Read more

Key ObamaCare premiums drop for third straight year

Average ObamaCare premiums will decline by 2 percent for the 2021 year for a benchmark plan, the Trump administration announced, marking the third straight year of declines.

Premiums for the benchmark plan have declined by 8 percent on the HealthCare.gov platform over the three-year period since the 2018 plan year, the administration said.

The announcement from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is an indication of how the Trump administration is claiming credit for its stewardship of the Affordable Care Act while at the same time backing a lawsuit to scrap the law.

“Bottom line – The President has delivered, lower cost and more choice,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “Our changes to the regulations and how we have managed the Exchanges have proven to be more effective than previous administrations.”

On the other hand, President TrumpDonald John TrumpNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter DC correspondent on the death of Michael Reinoehl: ‘The folks I know in law enforcement are extremely angry about it’ Late night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study MORE made clear last month that he still wants ObamaCare struck down.

“Obamacare will be replaced with a MUCH better, and FAR cheaper, alternative if it is terminated in the Supreme Court. Would be a big WIN for the USA!” he tweeted.

The administration argues, however, that as long as law is still on the books, it is being managed well.

The simple passage of time is also a factor in the stabilization of the ObamaCare markets. Insurers initially underpriced their premiums when the law kicked into gear in 2014, and then had to raise them to avoid losses. As the years have gone on, insurers have more experience in the marketplaces and have priced more accurately.

More insurers are also participating in the law’s marketplaces, the administration said. Just 9 percent of counties will have only one insurer offering ObamaCare coverage, down from 50 percent of counties in 2018.

Democrats have pointed to cuts in outreach funding and the expansion of cheaper, skimpier “short-term plans” to argue that the Trump administration is undermining the law.

Source Article

Read more

Obamacare Open Enrollment Starts Nov 1. Here’s What’s Changing This Year : Shots

Open enrollment is about to start for those buying private insurance off state or federal exchanges.

PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou/Getty Images/PhotoAlto


hide caption

toggle caption

PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou/Getty Images/PhotoAlto

Open enrollment is about to start for those buying private insurance off state or federal exchanges.

PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou/Getty Images/PhotoAlto

Facing a pandemic, record unemployment and unknown future costs for COVID-19 treatments, health insurers selling Affordable Care Act plans to individuals reacted by lowering rates in some areas and, overall, issuing only modest premium increases for 2021.

“What’s been fascinating is that carriers in general are not projecting much impact from the pandemic for their 2021 premium rates,” said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Although final rates have yet to be analyzed in all states, those who study the market say the premium increases they have seen to date will be in the low single digits — and decreases are not uncommon.

That’s good news for the more than 10 million Americans who purchase their own ACA health insurance through federal and state marketplaces. The federal market, which serves 36 states, opens for 2021 enrollment Nov. 1, with sign-up season ending Dec. 15. Some of the 14 states and the District of Columbia that operate their own markets have longer enrollment periods.

The flip side of flat or declining premiums is that some consumers who qualify for subsidies to help them purchase coverage may also see a reduction in that aid. Subsidies are determined by a mix of a consumer’s income and the cost of a benchmark plan.

Here are a few things to know about 2021 coverage:

It might cost about the same this year — or even less.

Despite the ongoing debate about the ACA — compounded by a Supreme Court challenge brought by 20 Republican states and supported by the Trump administration — enrollment and premium prices are not forecast to shift much.

“It’s the third year in a row with premiums staying pretty stable,” said Louise Norris, an insurance broker in Colorado who follows rates nationwide and writes about insurance trends. “We’ve seen modest rate changes and influx of new insurers.”

That relative stability followed ups and downs, with the last big increases coming in 2018, partly in response to the Trump administration cutting some payments to insurers.

Those increases priced out some enrollees, particularly people who don’t qualify for subsidies, which are tied both to income and the cost of premiums. ACA enrollment has fallen since its peak in 2016.

Charles Gaba, a web developer who has since late 2013 tracked enrollment data in the ACA on his ACASignups.net website, follows premium changes based on filings with state regulators. Each summer, insurers must file their proposed rates for the following year with states, which have varying oversight powers.

Gaba said the average requested increase next year nationwide is 2.1%. When he looked at 18 states for which regulators have approved insurers’ requested rates, the percentage is lower

Read more

Trump Administration Says Obamacare Plan Premiums 2% Lower in 2021 | Top News

(Reuters) – Premiums for an average health insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act has dropped by 2% for the 2021 coverage year, according to a report released by the Trump administration, which is seeking to invalidate the 2010 healthcare law.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on Monday said the trend of lower premiums and increased issuer participation for HealthCare.gov, a health insurance exchange website under the United States federal government, will continue in 2021.

The average premium for its benchmark “silver” plan dropped by 2%, and 22 more issuers will offer coverage in 2021, the agency said in the report.

The Trump administration said four states – Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire and Wyoming – will see double-digit decreases in the average benchmark plan premiums for 27-year-olds in the coming year.

Increased participation of issuers will mean greater choice for consumers, the administration said in the report.  

However, it said the average premiums are still significantly higher than when the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare, was first implemented.

The average benchmark plan premium for a typical family of four has increased from $794 in 2014 – the first year the ACA’s main requirements were introduced – to $1,486 in 2021, the report said.

Users can start enrolling in plans for 2021 between Nov. 1, 2020 and Dec. 15, 2020, with coverage beginning on Jan. 1, 2021.

(Reporting by Vishwadha Chander in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

Source Article

Read more

Affordable Care Act: Trump keeps chipping away at Obamacare with only weeks until the election — and a Supreme Court hearing

The administration this week approved Georgia’s waiver request to provide Medicaid coverage to certain low-income residents if they work or participate in other qualifying activities for at least 80 hours a month. It’s the latest state to receive permission to require work as a condition of coverage, though implementation elsewhere has been halted by federal courts or state officials.

Also, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced it had completed its review of Georgia’s more controversial request to make fundamental changes to the state’s Affordable Care Act exchange. The agency, which opened the door for states to create alternatives to Obamacare in 2018, is still finalizing the terms for approval.

The Peach State, which has the nation’s third highest uninsured rate at 13.4%, is the first to seek this enhanced power to reshape its individual market.

Georgia and federal officials say that these efforts will make coverage more available and affordable to residents, but consumer advocates say they are the latest attempts to undercut the law.

“It’s a road map of what they would allow were the ACA to be struck down and were they to win election again,” said Judy Solomon, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

These moves come as health care takes center stage in the 2020 presidential campaign. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign has hammered Trump for trying to take down the landmark health reform law and its protections for those with pre-existing conditions. Trump has repeatedly said he has a replacement plan that would continue those safeguards but has yet to produce one.
Also, Trump’s Justice Department is backing a coalition of Republican-led attorneys general, who argue that Obamacare’s individual mandate was rendered unconstitutional after Congress reduced the penalty for not having insurance to zero as part of the 2017 tax cut law. As a result, the entire health reform law must fall, they argue. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case on November 10.
The administration has pursued multiple avenues to overturn the Affordable Care Act in its first term. After efforts to repeal the law in Congress failed in 2017, officials started undermining it from within, including shortening the annual enrollment period to obtain coverage on the exchanges and slashing the budget for outreach and assistance. It also broadened the availability of alternative plans, primarily short-term health insurance policies that typically have lower premiums but are allowed to base coverage and premiums on people’s medical histories.
Also, officials took the unprecedented step in 2018 of allowing states to institute work requirements in Medicaid, a longtime Republican goal. However, the effort has been set aside by federal courts in four states, prompting the six others that had received approval (prior to Georgia) to stop implementation. Another eight states are awaiting permission from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

What Georgia wants to do

Georgia is not looking to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The waiver only applies to those earning up to

Read more
  • Partner links