Panel hears of of Obamacare successes, perils in Maryland – The Baltimore Sun

By Michael Dresser

A commission established to explore Maryland’s options to respond to a possible repeal of Obamacare heard an accounting of the program’s accomplishments in the state Tuesday as well as warnings about the effects of President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to dismantle it.

The Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Commission, created by the General Assembly this year, launched its efforts to prepare for change in federal health programs less than a week after a Trump-backed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act failed in the U.S. Senate.

Nevertheless, panel members were told that more than 400,000 people still face the possibility of losing coverage or being charged higher premiums as a result of actions taken or threatened by the Trump administration.

The most immediate peril facing the states is that the Republican administration would refuse to pay Obamacare’s cost-sharing subsidies to insurers that allow them to provide coverage to lower-income customers.

Benjamin Orr, executive director of the Maryland Center on Economic Policy, said Obamacare had brought a decline of $311 million in uncompensated care at the state’s hospitals from 2013 to 2015. He said that in 2015 alone, 86,000 seniors and disabled people saved an average of $1,158 each because the law closed the so-called “donut hole” in prescription drug coverage.

Orr warned that there are still Republican proposals in play on Capitol Hill that could have a significant impact in Maryland. He warned the panel that a proposal by Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham to turn federal cost-sharing under Medicaid into block grants could shift heavy costs to the states. Meanwhile, Trump’s budget and a House spending proposal both envision hundreds of billions in cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and other health programs, he said.

Had Democrat Hillary Clinton won the presidential election, Obamacare markets had been expected to stabilize, Orr said.

“All of that expected stability has gone out the window,” he said. Orr said an actuarial study forecasts that premiums could rise 20 to 29 percent in 2018 — mostly because of uncertainties over subsidy payments.

“Those payments are of primary importance at the moment,” he said.

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