Iowa’s Republican Gov. Kimberly Reynolds signed a state law Monday that lets some insurers skirt Obamacare regulations. The law would let the Iowa Farm Bureau and Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield sell health plans to the farm bureau’s members that ignore the mandates.
The mandates require insurers to cover essential health benefits such as maternity care or hospitalization and prevents insurers from charging sick people higher prices. Gov. Reynolds said the state’s market is collapsing because of the high cost of Obamacare, with many citizens choosing to go without insurance because the law is pricing them out of the market.
Critics of Obamacare have said that the mandates have caused premiums to soar, while supporters say they have created higher quality health plans for Americans. Obamacare supporters have also criticized Trump’s move as plans to sell “junk” insurance.
Iowa’s Obamacare exchange, which sells plans on the individual market, had one insurer selling plans in 2018. Wellmark agreed to rejoin the exchange in 2019 after deciding to not sell plans for the 2018 coverage year.
“This legislation will allow insurance companies to sell junk plans without proper oversight — precisely the kind of abuses the Affordable Care Act was designed to stop,” said Leslie Dach, chair of the pro-Obamacare advocacy group Protect Our Care.
Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen said that he is officially undecided about the new Farm Bureau law but that he sympathizes with the need for more-affordable coverage. As consumers have been “hammered” by the ACA rates, he said, enrollment in Iowa’s marketplace has tumbled from nearly 75,000 in 2016 to about 61,000 last Fall to 46,000 last month.
According to Ommen, the Farm Bureau modeled its idea after a similar arrangement sponsored by the Tennessee Farm Bureau, which began decades ago and has continued in the ACA era. The Obama administration never challenged it.
All eyes will be on the Trump Administration to see whether or not they will allow the Farm Bureau and Wellmark to offer the plans.
The Trump administration has not said if it will allow the Farm Bureau and Wellmark to offer the plans. The legislation argues that the plans aren’t considered insurance and therefore don’t have to abide by Obamacare’s rules.
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