Democratic Health Leaders Urge Verma to Withdraw Proposals that Increase Health Costs and Kick Thousands Off Coverage

WASHINGTON – Bicameral Democratic health leaders wrote to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma today urging the agency to withdraw its proposed policies included in a February proposed rule that would result in higher out-of-pocket costs for millions of Americans and thousands of low-income families losing their health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The letter was signed by House Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA), Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), and Senate Finance Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR).

“We call on the administration to cease its efforts to undermine the ACA and throw families’ health care into jeopardy for partisan gain,” the Democratic health leaders wrote Administrator Verma.  “The proposed rule includes policies that would increase premiums, kick individuals off their coverage, and increase health care costs.  We urge you to reverse course, and work with Congress to enact policies that would improves access to coverage.”   

In the Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2021 for the ACA, CMS proposed discontinuing health insurance subsidies, known as advanced premium tax credits (APTC), for the approximately 270,000 low-income consumers who are enrolled in zero-dollar premium plans and who do not actively reapply during the annual Open Enrollment.  According to CMS’s own internal analysis, if automatic re-enrollment was terminated, “consumers will likely lose coverage and become uninsured.”  The members note in their letter that this change would be particularly disruptive because consumers have become accustomed to the existing automatic re-enrollment process and expressed concern that this disruption could be compounded given the Trump administration’s extremely poor record on outreach to consumers.

“The administration cannot, on the one hand, apply punitive policies for those who do not actively re-enroll, while simultaneously cutting the budget for the very outreach activities that promote active re-enrollment.  We strongly urge you to maintain the policy of providing APTC to consumers who do not actively return to the Marketplace during the annual Open Enrollment,” the members continued.

The Committee leaders also expressed concern that the proposed rule would continue to charge states a user fee for using the federal Marketplace, while failing to properly invest in robust advertising and outreach.  The Trump administration collected $1.7 billion in user fees in 2018 but cut funding for outreach and enrollment by 90 percent and spent just $20 million in outreach and navigator funding in 2019.  

The members also expressed concern with the administration’s proposed changes to the way monthly premium assistance is calculated, which according to CMS’s own analysis would lead to coverage losses, increased premiums, and market disruption.  

Read the letter to CMS here.


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