The Trump administration recently announced it will no longer make the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing reduction payments to help reduce out-of-pocket costs for low-income individuals.
The effect of terminating the payments has been well-analyzed, including a report from the Congressional Budget Office. It will drive up premiums as insurers attempt to cover the cost of the reductions. As premiums rise, large numbers of people will become uninsured or effectively uninsured — making it more difficult for them to access needed care.
In Utah, Intermountain Healthcare operates or subsidizes about 50 clinics for low-income individuals that provide medical care in nearly 500,000 visits a year. In the absence of cost-sharing reduction payments, we think the number of people needing help at these clinics will increase dramatically. So will visits to hospital emergency rooms — an expensive and inappropriate setting for treating basic, nonemergent, medical problems. This raises the cost of health care for everyone. Even more importantly, many people with low incomes may postpone needed care, exacerbating their medical problems to the detriment of their health — and, in some cases, placing their lives at risk.
We urge our political leaders to visit clinics and hospitals to see what it’s really like to be a low-income person seeking needed medical care. I think they’ll come away with a greater understanding of the hardships and difficult choices people struggle with. Physicians and health organizations are trying to do their part, but our public policies and institutions should help as well. This latest action by the administration will cause real pain to real people.
Marc Harrison, M.D.
Intermountain Healthcare President and CEO
Salt Lake City