While You Were Looking At Bombs, Trump Quietly Changed Obamacare

Prepare for a much shorter enrollment period

Over the last few weeks, the United States has fired more than 50 Tomahawk missiles into Syria in an attempt to send a message to its president, Bashar al-Assad, dropped the “mother of all bombs” on Afghanistan to smoke out an ISIS stronghold, and is now threatening a preemptive strike against North Korea if the small, isolated nation appears ready to test yet another nuclear weapon.

Suffice to say, it’s been a busy week for the U.S. military, but as we were all distracted looking at military might (we’re looking at you, Brian Williams), President Donald Trump quietly made significant changes to Obamacare that will affect millions of people.

In an effort to appease insurance companies and attract more to rejoin the exchange, the Trump administration issued changes on Thursday that make it harder for people to drop in and out of the insurance marketplace. Insurance companies claim that some people only add insurance when they are sick and drop out after receiving treatment. Additionally, the open enrollment period was cut in half.

“The stability and competitiveness of the Exchanges, as well as that of the individual and small group markets in general, have recently been threatened by issuer exits and increasing rates in many geographic areas,” the new regulation reads. “Some issuers have had difficulty attracting and retaining the healthy consumers necessary to provide for a stable risk pool that will support stable rates. In particular, some issuers have cited special enrollment periods and grace periods as potential sources of adverse selection that have contributed to this problem.”

However, what the new regulation lacks is any mention of cost-sharing reductions, which lower out-of-pocket costs for the poorest employees and are paid directly to insurers. Trump, as Huffington Post reported, repeatedly threatened to cut off those payments, a threat that insurance companies are hoping is another empty promise.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]Health plans and the consumers they serve need to know that funding for cost-sharing reduction subsidies will continue uninterrupted.[/quote]

"There is still too much instability and uncertainty in this market," Marilyn Tavenner, president of America's Health Insurance Plans and the industry's top lobbyist, said in a statement. “Health plans and the consumers they serve need to know that funding for cost-sharing reduction subsidies will continue uninterrupted.”

Tavenner added that, without funding, millions of Americans who buy their own plans will be harmed. “Many plans will likely drop out of the market. Premiums will go up sharply—nearly 20 percent—across the market.” She noted that costs will go up for taxpayers and doctors and hospitals will see even greater strains on their ability to care for people. “We urge Congress and the administration to act now to guarantee funding for cost-sharing reduction subsidies.”

Beyond cutting the enrollment period and failing to address cost-sharing subsidies, the new regulation also allows insurance companies to refuse to sell policies to consumers who fail to make all their premium payments this year. The new regulations also make it more difficult for people who have major life changes, such as getting married or moving jobs, to gain insurance after the enrollment period. Previously, people simply had to attest that they had a life change, now they will need documentation to prove it. Additionally, the new regulations will allow insurance companies to sell plans that cover less and instead hand off more of the expense for visits, medical care, and prescription costs to the consumer.

Even with these changes, Trump still has his sights set on repealing and replacing Obamacare completely. Seema Verma, the Trump administration official responsible for the markets, said in a statement, "While these steps will help stabilize the individual and small group markets, they are not a long-term cure for the problems that the Affordable Care Act has created in our health care system."

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

As world leaders meet to discuss new ways to tackle climate change at the U.N. Climate Action Summit, they might miss one very big part of healing nature – nature. In a new short film, youth climate change activist Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot, a writer for the Guardian, talked about how we need to use nature as a solution to climate change.

There's a huge push to curb emissions, but it's not the be all end all of handling climate change; we also need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. While we don't have technology to do that for us, there is another solution. "There is a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It's called a tree," Monboit says in the film. Researchers found that we could get rid of two-thirds of the carbon dioxide that we've emitted during the industrial era just by growing trees. That amounts to 205 billion tons of carbon. Right now, deforestation of tropical forests is responsible for 20% of current greenhouse emissions.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Climate Action Tracker

In 2016, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to combat climate change by taking action to curb the increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement requires countries to report on their emissions and what steps they're taking to implement those plans. Now that the countries are coming together again for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City, it's worth taking a look at what kind of progress they've made.

The Climate Action Trackerkeeps tabs on what each country is doing to limit warming, and if they're meeting their self-set goals. Countries are graded based on whether or not their actions would help limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

According to a recent article from National Geographic, The Gambia, Morocco, and India are at the head of the class. "Even though carbon emissions in The Gambia, Morocco, and India are expected to rise, they'll fall short of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius limit," the article reads. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, on the other hand, get a big fat F. "Projected emissions in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are far greater than what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less

The disappearance of 40-year-old mortgage broker William Earl Moldt remained a mystery for 22 years because the technology used to find him hadn't been developed yet.

Moldt was reported missing on November 8, 1997. He had left a nightclub around 11 p.m. where he had been drinking. He wasn't known as a heavy drinker and witnesses at the bar said he didn't seem intoxicated when he left.

Keep Reading Show less