Extend Subsidies for Health Insurers to Stabilize Exchanges, Regulators Say

Extending an Obamacare program to subsidize health insurers is on the list of policies that some state officials will be requesting Sept. 6 in Washington.

The Affordable Care Act reinsurance program needs to be in place for at least five years to stabilize the troubled 2018 exchange markets, and it would be better if it were made permanent, Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, a Democrat, told me in an advance interview on what he will talk about before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Alaska Insurance Division Director Lori Wing-Heier, appointed by independent Gov. Bill Walker, also told me reinsurance money should be made available. The reinsurance program, which was authorized from 2014-2016, was the most successful program to help insurers that covered people with high-cost claims.

Prior to 2018 many congressional Republicans opposed providing additional subsidies to health insurers under the ACA, labeling such payments “bailouts.” But the American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628) approved by the House of Representatives in May, as well as the Better Care Reconciliation Act considered by the Senate included state stabilization funding financed from the general Treasury, Katy Spangler, senior vice president of health policy for the American Benefits Council, told me.

“There’s certainly bipartisan support for some type of risk mitigation program,” Spangler said. Financing reinsurance from the general Treasury, rather than through the employer fees that were levied in the first three years, will be key to getting support from employers, Spangler indicated.

In addition, state insurance commissioners and governors scheduled to testify over two days of hearing on the exchanges will be calling for more certainty in funding the cost-sharing reduction subsidies for low-income people. A federal court ruled in 2016 that the Obama administration had been making the payments illegally without a congressional appropriation, and President Donald Trump has Tweeted that his administration may withhold the payments unless Congress acts on health-care reform.

Read my full article here.

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