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Analysis

House Dems Press HHS, Citing Internal Memo That Warned Against ACA Changes

By Steven Porter  
   June 17, 2019

The memo from CMS Administrator Seema Verma acknowledged last year that three potential changes would result in 1.1 million fewer insured people and could destabilize the market.

Democrats in the House of Representatives are putting pressure on Trump administration health officials after the lawmakers released an internal memo showing that officials had been warned about the consequences of implementing three potential policy changes under the Affordable Care Act.

A redacted version of the memo, which Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar last August, was released to House committees as part of the Democrat-controlled chamber's inquiry into the Trump administration's response to a Texas-led lawsuit seeking to overturn the ACA in its entirety, according to a letter three House committee chairs sent to Azar last week.

Although the administration has implemented only one of the three potential changes mentioned in Verma's memo, the House committee chairs accused officials of seeking to chip away at the sprawling Obama-era legislation.

"The fact that the Trump Administration would finalize policies despite these serious warnings from CMS is deeply troubling," they wrote, "and it appears to be part of the Administration's continuing efforts to sabotage the individual market, undermine the ACA, hinder consumers' access to comprehensive health care coverage, and weaken protections for people with preexisting conditions."

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Verma's memo warned that the combined impact of ending automatic reenrollment under the ACA, banning insurers' so-called "silver-loading," and reducing subsidies would reduce ACA enrollment by 1.1 million people in 2020 and could destabilize the market.

The administration maintained the ACA's auto-reenrollment and hasn't banned silver-loading, but it did change subsidies, as Politico's Dan Diamond reported.

An HHS spokesperson confirmed to The Hill's Peter Sullivan that the department received the letter from the three House committee chairs.

"All congressional inquiries are taken seriously by the department and we will respond as appropriate in a timely fashion," the HHS spokesperson reportedly said.

Related: Critics Warn Premiums Will Rise Under CMS' Tweaked 2020 Subsidy Formula

Related: An End to 'Silver-Loading'? Question Queued Up for 2021

Steven Porter is an associate content manager and Strategy editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

The administration has implemented just one of the three changes.

The back-and-forth stems from the Texas-led lawsuit to overturn the ACA in its entirety.


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