Health Insurers May Get More Time to Decide to Participate in Obamacare


Health insurers may get seven additional weeks to figure out whether to keep participating in the Obamacare exchanges.

The deadline for filing most health plan applications in the Affordable Care Act exchanges in 2018 would be extended to June 21 from May 3 under a Department of Health and Human Services proposal. More than 9.2 million people signed up for plans in the 39 federal states as of Jan. 31, according to the HHS.

The goal of the revised deadline “is clearly to allow insurers more time to consider whether they will participate in the federally facilitated marketplace,” Timothy Jost, a consumer representative with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, wrote in a blog posting.

Rate increases must be publicly posted by Aug. 1 in most states under the proposal. The 2018 open enrollment period begins Nov. 1.

Most health insurers have been losing money in the ACA exchanges. Humana Inc. is the latest health insurer to announce it will drop out of most ACA exchanges in 2018, and Molina Healthcare Inc., which had been viewed as a relatively successful exchange plan, is also threatening to leave the exchanges.

Action by congressional Republicans to repeal and replace the 2010 health-care law have also contributed to uncertainty in the exchange markets.

Katie Allen, executive director of the Council for Affordable Health Coverage (CAHC), told me that her organization would like to see the deadline pushed back further to give insurers more time to decide whether to keep participating in the exchanges. The CAHC represents employers, health insurers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, patient groups and health-care providers.

“Even more could be done by states,” Allen said, suggesting that the federal government doesn’t need to keep duplicating rate reviews already conducted by states.

In December 2016, S&P Global Ratings forecast that most plans are likely to continue losing money in the exchanges in 2017, but the 25 percent average premium increase this year is likely a one-time correction to make up for pricing plans too low in the early years of the exchanges.

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