Insurers May Get More Time to Opt Into Obamacare in 2018

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By Sara Hansard

The deadline for health insurers to apply for the 2018 Obamacare federal exchanges would be extended from May 3 to June 21, the HHS proposed Feb. 17.

The extra month and a half would provide more time to stabilize the troubled Affordable Care Act exchange markets, America’s Health Insurance Plans spokeswoman Kristine Grow told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail Feb. 17. Health plans are in the process of deciding whether to participate in the 2018 exchanges, and many health-care stakeholders have said the 2018 exchanges are in jeopardy of further premium increases and withdrawals as Republicans prepare plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Humana Inc. was the latest to withdraw from the 2018 exchanges, and Molina Healthcare Inc. also indicated it may not participate. Most of the health plans participating in the ACA exchanges are losing money due to a sicker-than-expected population of enrollees.

In addition to the draft bulletin that would revise the timing for qualified health plan submissions, the Health and Human Services Department's Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released a document of revised key date filings for qualified health plan certification in the federal exchanges and an addendum of technical guidance. Plans can file their applications as early as May 10 under the proposal, on which the CMS requested comments no later than March 7. The CMS would send final certification notices to insurers by Oct. 12, instead of Sept. 22. The 2018 open enrollment period is to start Nov. 1.

The deadline extension will be helpful, Katie Allen, executive director of the Council for Affordable Health Coverage (CAHC), told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 17, but “we think that could be pushed back a couple more weeks.” The CAHC represents employers, health insurers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, patient groups and providers.

Allow States to Take Over Rate Reviews

In addition to the deadline extension, the Trump administration should allow states to take over rate reviews, Allen said. Under the Obama administration, the CMS determined that all but four states have adequate rate reviews, and “we don’t see any reason why the federal government should be duplicating that review,” she said.

In a market stabilization proposed rule published Feb. 17 in the Federal Register, the CMS proposed allowing states to set standards for network adequacy. Deferring to states to take on more authority in implementing health-care reform has been a major theme of Republicans in Congress.

“HHS couldn’t push this back much further and still give states time to review rates and forms, but insurers will have a bit more time to absorb all the changes that are going on and figure out what to do next,” Timothy Jost, a consumer representative with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail Feb. 17.

However, “Congress may still be stalemated by late spring, in which case insurers will still have to guess what to do,” Jost said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sara Hansard in Washington at shansard@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Brian Broderick at bbroderick@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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