Trump officials tell Idaho it can’t dump Obamacare

The Trump administration today threw cold water on Idaho's plan to ignore key Obamacare requirements, telling the red state that it must follow the health care law.

Idaho was moving to let insurers offer plans that don’t meet the Affordable Care Act’s robust coverage rules — including protections for pre-existing conditions and mandated benefits — in a bid to expand the availability of cheaper health plans. The Idaho plan has sparked considerable interest from other red states that have long opposed Obamacare.

But Trump administration health officials, who’ve worked to unwind Obamacare through regulation and have encouraged states to pursue alternative coverage options, said that they ultimately had to make sure the law is enforced while it’s on the books.

“CMS is committed to working with states to give them as much flexibility as permissible under the law to provide their citizens the best possible access to healthcare. However, the Affordable Care Act remains the law," read a statement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the law's insurance marketplaces.

The decision comes after newly installed Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar faced pressure for weeks from patient groups and other insurers to reject the Idaho plan. The groups argued it would destabilize the state's insurance marketplace and undermine key protections for people with serious medical conditions. Azar, who served as HHS’ top lawyer during the George W. Bush administration, had demurred for weeks on whether he would let the proposal move ahead.

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