Trump officials unveil rule that could chip away at Obamacare

The Trump administration unveiled a proposed rule Thursday that would make it easier for small businesses -- and some...

Posted: Jan 5, 2018 12:07 AM
Updated: Jan 5, 2018 12:08 AM

The Trump administration unveiled a proposed rule Thursday that would make it easier for small businesses -- and some self-employed folks -- to band together and buy health insurance.

The proposed regulation, which stems from an executive order President Trump issued in October, would allow small firms to form "small business health plans" based on their location or industry. Sole proprietors would also be eligible to join the plans, which would ideally be able to use their scale to secure less expensive coverage much like large-employer plans do.

The proposal would broaden access to what are known now as association health plans to more Americans and their families. Some 11 million people could be eligible, according to the Department of Labor, which issued the proposed rule.

However, the rule could provide an attractive alternative to Obamacare for some people, especially younger and healthier consumers. This is particularly true because sole proprietors could join these plans.

That, in turn, could prompt insurers to raise rates for those who remain on the Affordable Care Act exchanges.

Related: What happened to Trump's big plans for health insurance?

The small business health plans would not have to adhere to all of Obamacare's rules, particularly the one requiring insurers to offer comprehensive coverage. So these plans would likely have lower premiums, but also provide fewer benefits -- which could leave sicker and older workers out in the cold. Also, the offerings could be less attractive to young women if they don't cover maternity benefits.

Plus, the proposed regulation would allow associations to base rates on gender, age and industry, which could leave some folks paying much higher rates. Currently, the Affordable Care Act bans basing premiums on gender or industry and limits the amount that can be based on age.

The proposal does leave in place -- for now -- some state oversight of the health plans. Just how this would work isn't immediately clear. However, some experts worry that the new rule could weaken -- or at least leave ambiguous -- states' power to regulate coverage.

Trump and Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky had been pushing to change the regulation so the plans could be sold across state lines with little, if any, local oversight. The goal would be to give consumers more options.

The Department of Labor is soliciting comments -- including on whether it should preempt state regulation of these plans -- for 60 days.

Have you belonged to an association health plan or do you wish to join one? Is a short-term health insurance policy right for you? Email healthcarestories@cnn.com and you could be included in an upcoming article.

Trump's executive order, which he said was aimed at increasing choice and competition, also called for federal agencies to look at changing the rules governing short-term insurance policies and health reimbursement arrangements. Those regulations have yet to be issued.

The Obama administration limited the duration of short-term health plans to no more than 90 days in order to make them less attractive. The executive order is expected to lift that cap, enabling consumers to buy policies that would last just under a year.

Short-term plans don't have to adhere to Obamacare's regulations so consumers would have a wider array of options with lower monthly rates. But these policies can exclude those with pre-existing conditions or base rates on a person's medical history. They can also offer skimpier benefits so policyholders may have to pay more out of pocket if they actually need care.

Health reimbursement arrangements allow employers to give workers cash to buy coverage elsewhere.

Both would further erode the potential pool of Obamacare enrollees.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 28770

Reported Deaths: 1092
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds224739
DeSoto144216
Madison124234
Jones109149
Neshoba97070
Lauderdale89479
Rankin86012
Forrest82942
Harrison79410
Scott75715
Copiah58016
Leake56519
Jackson55716
Holmes53641
Wayne52212
Lee51816
Oktibbeha51625
Washington5129
Yazoo4786
Leflore47449
Warren46317
Lowndes45912
Lincoln43734
Lamar4317
Grenada3965
Pike39312
Monroe37529
Lafayette3684
Attala35523
Newton3329
Sunflower3216
Covington3175
Bolivar29813
Panola2956
Adams28018
Simpson2713
Chickasaw26418
Tate2648
Marion26311
Pontotoc2616
Jasper2516
Noxubee2478
Pearl River24532
Clay24410
Winston2446
Claiborne23910
Marshall2123
Smith21111
Clarke20424
Coahoma1906
Union1819
Walthall1794
Kemper17614
Yalobusha1667
Lawrence1621
Carroll16111
Humphreys1309
Itawamba1308
Tippah12711
Webster12610
Calhoun1244
Montgomery1242
Hancock12313
Tallahatchie1153
Jefferson Davis1074
Prentiss1003
Greene968
Jefferson963
Wilkinson929
Tunica903
Amite842
George753
Tishomingo731
Choctaw724
Quitman690
Perry634
Alcorn601
Stone541
Franklin392
Benton270
Sharkey270
Issaquena81
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 39604

Reported Deaths: 961
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4532143
Montgomery3875102
Mobile3797134
Tuscaloosa210739
Marshall162210
Lee124537
Shelby110923
Madison11047
Morgan10203
Walker87123
Franklin86314
Dallas8419
Elmore83614
Baldwin7359
Etowah64413
DeKalb6415
Butler60727
Chambers60027
Tallapoosa57269
Autauga55312
Unassigned50724
Russell5030
Lowndes45820
Lauderdale4576
Houston4464
Limestone4290
Cullman4114
Pike4075
Colbert3775
Bullock3649
Coffee3592
Barbour3331
Covington3327
St. Clair3192
Marengo29911
Hale29621
Escambia2936
Wilcox2848
Talladega2827
Calhoun2805
Sumter27912
Clarke2686
Dale2620
Jackson2522
Winston2373
Blount2181
Pickens2176
Chilton2152
Marion20613
Monroe2052
Choctaw19212
Randolph1889
Conecuh1866
Greene1788
Macon1778
Bibb1761
Perry1541
Henry1303
Crenshaw1243
Washington1027
Lawrence1000
Cherokee797
Lamar711
Geneva700
Fayette671
Clay612
Coosa571
Cleburne301
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