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Democrats should give the new ACA exchange regs a break

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Some Democrats are now attacking the draft Affordable Care Act rescue regulations the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has just proposed.

The new CMS regs are supposed to help tempt tough, charitable insurers back to the ACA public exchange system in 2018, if there is an exchange system, or any individual health insurance market. The main carrots on the stick would be a shorter open enrollment period and tougher enforcement of the existing applicant eligibility screening rules.

Related: ACA risk program may kill Molina exchange plans

One point would be to give insurers somewhat better defenses against consumers who only want to pay for coverage when they get sick.

Another point would be to make insurers feel as if CMS is trying to help them out.

Some Democrats in Congress say the tougher new enrollment and eligibility screening requirements would be too hard on consumers, and would put the insurers back on top, rather than the consumers.

The only names on the regulation draft appear to be the names of people who started working for CMS when Obama was in office. CMS sent the regulation through the standard regulatory review process earlier this month, but it looks as if the draft consists mainly of changes that CMS officials were thinking of before Donald Trump entered the White House.

This week, the fate of the 2018 individual major medical market looks doubtful. It’s not all that clear whether many carriers will have any coverage for sale, inside or outside the exchange system, even if the exchange system continues to exist more or less intact. It seems possible that Washington will decide what it wants to do too late for insurers to offer coverage next year, even if Washington eliminates the current ACA rate filing and rate review deadlines.

Related: Trump says Obamacare replacement could take until next year

CMS employees appear to just be trying to throw the insurers in the individual market the best ad hoc flotation device they could come up with, under these particular drowning conditions.

The draft regulations might, from some perspectives, be ugly, but so are lifeboats, life jackets, and random buoyant logs that happen to be floating by the drowning person.

Yelling at CMS employees for throwing the individual market the equivalent an ugly, nasty empty water container with mold on it, because that’s what they happen to have to throw, will not make the individual market situation any better.

Allison Bell is a senior editor at


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