As if Americans hadn’t enough to worry about when it came to health insurance. The Trump administration last month announced plans to suspend “risk-adjustment” payments to health insurers. Then too back those plans. Then it reserved the option to do it all again. American health care goes into yet another spiral of insecurity.
A judge in New Mexico ruled in early July that part of the Affordable Care Act contained a payment flaw in calculations for that state. The administration jumped in and declared the New Mexico ruling reason enough to suspend the payments nationwide. There were protests, grievous warnings.
The federal payments are critical to the Affordable Care Act. The idea is to adjust risks, transferring funds from insurers with healthier patients to those with sicker, costlier enrollees. When the risks are adjusted, or softened, the costs are distributed more equitably. This is what federal payments ‒ roughly $10.4 billion last year ‒ are designed to achieve.
The administration, though, hopes to destabilize the market and force insurers to increase premiums for individuals and small business owners. As insurance companies howl and the wallets of 20 million enrollees are savaged, critics can gloat over the program’s decline, pronounce it a failure.
The way to better health insurance is not to cause an infection and blame the patient (or program) for being sick ‒ especially if no cure is waiting, or even planned.
America already has a way to affordable care. We should help to make it a better way, and not a weakened one. Why strangle something that worked, and could again?