In an eleventh-hour ruling finalized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the outgoing Trump administration amended Obamacare so that some states will be able to waive burdensome federal mandates and offer patients innovative health care options.
Heritage Foundation visiting fellow Doug Badger joined two dozen leaders, along with Heritage policy experts Bob Moffitt and Ed Haislmaier, in urging the administration to make these changes, which make permanent earlier reforms recommended by Heritage scholars.
Legal requirements written into Obamacare give states an opportunity to adjust their health insurance markets and safety net programs for their own unique needs. Heritage experts have long supported measures to give states more flexibility in their health care choices.
In a commentary from September 2019, for example, Badger argued that allowing states to control funding for their health care programs made Obamacare premiums go down.
“Obamacare’s Washington-centric approach isn’t working. State innovation is working,” wrote Badger. “Risk-mitigation waivers have shown that giving states authority to repurpose a portion of Obamacare funds can reduce premiums.”
This is not the first time the Trump administration took steps recommended by Heritage to reform health care.
The administration also approved, for example, an important Medicaid waiver for the state of Tennessee in a move that Heritage experts urged to give the state the necessary leeway to tailor its Medicaid program to its citizens.
While both the Medicaid and Obamacare rulings mark welcome policy changes, there is still room for improvement.
In an open letter to the American people, 81 health policy experts, including Badger, make the case for a health care system focused on patient choice. They write, “The debate today is between those who want to exert even more government control over the health care sector and those, like us, who favor giving patients more choice and control, and who support allowing the creativity we have seen in the COVID-19 crisis to flourish.”
“The success in states with waivers shows that giving states relief from strict Obamacare mandates in order to pursue innovative reforms has made health insurance more affordable,” said Maire Fishpaw, Heritage’s director of domestic policy studies of the rule change. “Congress should build on these findings by restructuring federal programs to maximize this flexibility.”
To learn more about how states are lowering their health care premiums, click here.