Speed Reads

ObamaCare (still) lives

Trump administration tells Idaho it needs to stick with ObamaCare

On Thursday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) shot down Idaho's bid to allow lower-cost, lower-coverage health insurance plans that don't comply with the Affordable Care Act. ObamaCare "remains the law, and we have a duty to enforce and uphold the law," CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a letter to Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter (R) and the head of the state's insurance department. Verma, who pushed for repealing ObamaCare, did not seem enthusiastic about denying Idaho's bid, and she said that "with certain modifications," its proposal might pass muster.

In January, Otter signed an executive order paving the way for cheaper health plans that allow higher premiums for people with pre-existing conditions, cap the amount of coverage allowed, and exclude the suite of "essential health benefits" required under the ACA. Blue Cross of Idaho had proposed five such plans to be launched in April, but Veema said if Idaho fails to "substantially enforce" ObamaCare, the federal government will step in as "primary enforcer." Idaho said "dozens" of other red states had expressed interest in its plan to flout ObamaCare, though none has followed through.

ObamaCare supporters were pleased but not overly impressed by the CMS move. "The Trump administration is talking out of both sides of their mouth," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). "While they claim to be upholding the law, they are explicitly inviting Idaho and other states to sell short-term, junk insurance — the exact opposite of the protections put in place by the Affordable Care Act."