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Open Enrollment for Health Coverage Kicks Off

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Thursday, November 1, 2018   

DENVER – Open enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act kicks off Thursday in Colorado, but recent moves by the Trump administration could have a big impact on how much coverage some consumers will actually get.

In October, the administration introduced a new guidance that allows states to sidestep some ACA requirements, and Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, says the move could speed up the rollout of what he calls "junk" health plans.

"Which don't have to cover people with pre-existing conditions,” he states. “They can charge you more based on your health status, and they don't have to comply with many of the other consumer protections under the Affordable Care Act."

Fox says these plans could lead to a patchwork of coverage standards, similar to what existed before the ACA created national standards in the individual market.

The Trump administration says the guidance is necessary due to rising insurance costs, and maintains it will expand consumer choice and reduce regulatory burdens.

Fox notes that while premiums for young and healthy people might be more affordable on the front end, the elimination of ACA protections, including annual and lifetime limits on out-of-pocket costs, could end up costing a lot more if people develop serious health conditions.

He adds that hospitals, and ultimately taxpayers, could end up on the hook when patients can't pay their bills.

"Allowing these junk insurance plans, these short-term plans, doesn't really change the underlying health care costs,” he stresses. “It just means that you will have less coverage when you actually need care."

Fox says because the new guidance allows states to transfer tax credits and financial assistance from full-coverage plans to subsidize cheaper plans, the move would undermine the Affordable Care Act's financial stability.

He adds Colorado's choice for governor could be the deciding factor on whether the state follows the Trump administration's guidance, or not.


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