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Monday, April 24, 2017

Trump Administration Hears Large Outcry from Consumers Opposing Finalized Harmful Policies

Lydia Mitts

Associate Director of Affordability Initiatives

In mid-April, the Trump Administration finalized policies that will harm consumers who buy health insurance through the marketplaces set up by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). These policy changes will increase costs for consumers, reduce financial assistance to help consumers afford coverage, and make it harder for people to enroll in coverage through the marketplaces. 

This was the Trump Administration’s first majority regulatory action on health care. And it’s a clear example of how President Trump will use his administrative authority to attack and weaken the ACA. In an earlier blog, we explained the harm these final policies will have on consumers’ access to affordable coverage. 

HHS received an overwhelming number of comments from concerned consumers

Regulatory changes like these must first go through a public comment period before they are finalized. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) received more than 4,000 comments in response to the proposed changes. Typically, it is health advocates and policy wonks like us who bother to submit comments about a change in a federal rule. 

In this case, however, an overwhelming number came from individual consumers urging the administration to protect and strengthen the ACA, and abandon policies changes that would make coverage more expensive and more difficult to obtain.  

Here are just a few examples of the concerns that people across this country voiced regarding these recently finalized policies:

“After years of paying ridiculously high premiums for miserable coverage, I am finally able to access quality, affordable health insurance and care, thanks to the ACA. This proposed rule would reduce, NOT improve, affordability and access to coverage for me and my family.”Lisa, California

“The Affordable Care Act has provided millions of people with quality, affordable health insurance. My daughter was diagnosed with hypothyroidism as an infant, and will likely require medication all her life. It is a small and manageable issue, but without health insurance I don't know if she ever would have been diagnosed. 

Please reject the proposed rule changes because they would not improve affordability and access to coverage for me and my family. They would actually make it worse by: increasing out-of-pocket health care costs; giving people less time to enroll in coverage and making it harder to do so; and weakening standards and decreasing access to the doctors and providers that I want and need.

Federal officials should be working to protect our health care, not take it away. I oppose this backdoor attempt to undermine the ACA. Instead, please protect the care I have and work to expand affordability and coverage for all people across the country.”Joanna, Wisconsin

“As someone who just spent last year moving from one state to another, I know firsthand how much work is involved in figuring out how to sign up to the ACA and to get healthcare. I've been on an ACA plan for years and it allowed me to afford way better coverage than was available to me beforehand and thus safeguarded my health while letting me start my own business...

I am both a healthy individual and one highly motivated to get on the exchange! If it was harder to sign up, I might've quit halfway through - something I bet many healthy people would do. Sick people would be the only ones motivated to persevere through the process. So this rule would discourage healthy people from joining and just leave the sick people in the pool, something that would tank the entire arrangement.”Andrea, Pennsylvania

“As a registered nurse working in a federally qualified health center, I find these changes to be unacceptable. Shifting the cost of accessing services further on to the consumer, creating barriers to access to healthcare through the ACA, and reducing the share that insurers must pay will have the effect of making our country sicker by reducing the affordability to healthcare to many of the most vulnerable and marginalized in our communities. While there are adjustments and changes that need to be made to ACA, we need to move forward not backwards.”Jeffrey, Washington

These comments are only a minute sampling of the comments submitted to HHS by concerned residents about the impact these policies would have on access to coverage and care for themselves, their families, and their neighbors. 

While the administration finalized these harmful policies, this outpouring of consumer comments documents the fact that it did so in the face of strong concerns from families across the country. It sends a loud message to the administration that people in this country want the president to build on the progress of the ACA, not tear it down. 

The question is: Will the administration listen in the future?

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