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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.

Cases: 252475

Reported Deaths: 5521
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17120175
Hinds16207322
Harrison13353193
Rankin10689211
Jackson10303183
Lee8796141
Madison8232162
Jones6288110
Forrest5949119
Lauderdale5847180
Lowndes5355116
Lafayette494292
Lamar484165
Washington4777123
Bolivar3966108
Oktibbeha392480
Panola368378
Pontotoc362853
Monroe3533105
Warren348498
Union343060
Marshall341665
Neshoba3370152
Pearl River327899
Leflore3002105
Lincoln297085
Sunflower282669
Tate270862
Hancock266559
Alcorn263253
Itawamba262459
Pike262077
Scott246245
Prentiss245052
Yazoo244355
Copiah240849
Tippah240450
Simpson234867
Leake230564
Coahoma230054
Grenada217770
Covington211371
Marion210672
Adams204670
Winston200164
Wayne199630
George199038
Attala193559
Newton191342
Tishomingo184459
Chickasaw183644
Jasper169735
Holmes168567
Clay159033
Stone142320
Tallahatchie140134
Clarke138660
Calhoun135721
Smith120123
Yalobusha116534
Walthall111836
Noxubee110322
Greene109729
Montgomery109434
Carroll104221
Lawrence102417
Perry101631
Amite97725
Webster92224
Tunica86321
Claiborne86125
Jefferson Davis84125
Humphreys82924
Benton81523
Kemper77120
Quitman6888
Franklin66415
Choctaw60313
Wilkinson58325
Jefferson53819
Sharkey42717
Issaquena1596
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 422598

Reported Deaths: 6120
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson62039921
Mobile30225548
Madison27052186
Tuscaloosa20728267
Montgomery18978305
Shelby18504114
Baldwin16251182
Lee12465101
Morgan12233113
Etowah11735168
Calhoun11122200
Marshall10191107
Houston8598148
Cullman8023105
Limestone800274
Elmore7836101
DeKalb768397
Lauderdale754683
St. Clair7535120
Talladega6166108
Walker5897174
Jackson580341
Colbert532073
Blount530483
Autauga518455
Coffee441056
Dale396181
Franklin366248
Chilton336165
Russell330310
Covington327268
Escambia316842
Dallas303196
Chambers282769
Clarke281433
Tallapoosa2616107
Pike248729
Marion245650
Lawrence243647
Winston226635
Bibb215147
Geneva201435
Marengo199029
Pickens196531
Hale175842
Barbour172936
Butler169658
Fayette168226
Cherokee160330
Henry153621
Monroe145217
Randolph139835
Washington137626
Clay126145
Crenshaw118744
Lamar118019
Cleburne117423
Macon114735
Lowndes110335
Wilcox103121
Bullock99028
Perry97419
Conecuh94420
Sumter89026
Greene76023
Coosa60515
Choctaw51224
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