Democrats Urge Trump Administration to Reject Georgia’s Illegal 1332 Waiver Request to Eliminate Healthcare.gov
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA), House Education and Labor Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), and Senate Finance Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) today wrote to key Trump Administration officials urging them to reject Georgia’s Section 1332 waiver request to eliminate Healthcare.gov without replacing it with a State-based Marketplace (SBM), functionally eliminating the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace in the southern state entirely.
The bicameral Democratic Health Committee leaders submitted the letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma, and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Charles Rettig ahead of today’s comment period deadline on the waiver request.
“The proposed waiver is unlawful, will significantly reduce access and enrollment in comprehensive health insurance, and will expose consumers to greater financial risk by encouraging enrollment in junk plans,” the Democrats wrote. “We urge you to reject the waiver and encourage the State of Georgia to resubmit a waiver proposal that comports with federal law and does not deprive thousands of the state’s residents of comprehensive health insurance coverage.”
The Affordable Care Act allows states to apply for Section 1332 waivers, or State Innovation Waivers, that provide states with flexibility to experiment with health insurance reforms that could improve the well-being of their residents. The law includes a clear statutory directive that any approved waiver must maintain the levels of benefits, affordability, and coverage provided to state residents by the ACA.
“Georgia’s proposed 1332 waiver fails to meet these statutory criteria because it would clearly result in a massive loss of health insurance coverage for its residents.,” the Committee leaders continued. “The waiver seeks to eliminate state residents’ access to Healthcare.gov without replacing it with a SBM. Georgia consumers would be required to seek coverage through the websites of private vendors who already exist and currently sell health plans in Georgia. Thus, the waiver seeks to eliminate a pathway to enrollment while creating no new options for consumers to enroll, nor any new incentives or mechanisms to facilitate enrollment.”
The Committee leaders raised concerns that the state’s waiver request does not explain how a vast majority of the more than 80,000 Georgians who currently get their health insurance through the ACA Marketplace would avoid a loss of coverage or how the state would address potential barriers to Medicaid enrollment. According to one estimate, the waiver proposal would cause 35,000 to 90,000 people to lose coverage in the first year.
If approved, Georgia’s waiver application is likely to drive consumers into substandard, junk coverage, such as short-term, limited duration plans (STLDI) as well as indemnity plans, critical illness plans, and other plans that lack the ACA’s consumer protections. These plans discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions, fail to provide consumers with meaningful protection against unexpected health care costs, and often result in consumers being saddled with thousands of dollars in unpaid medical claims.
To read the full letter, click HERE.