Obamacare Repeal Likely by Year’s End: House Majority Leader

Republicans are likely to repeal Obamacare before the end of the year, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) says.

His prediction, given at a breakfast I covered April 5, seemed to bear some fruit when the House Rules Committee adopted an amendment on April 6 that would appropriate $15 billion for 2018 through 2016 to be used a federal risk-sharing program to help health insurers who lose money on individual market plans.

The money would be added to a $100 billion Patient and State Stability Fund included in the Republican American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628), which states could use for a variety of purposes to help get people in their states covered.  House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) pulled H.R. 1628 from the House floor on March 24 because there were not enough votes to pass it, and House Republicans have been working with the White House since then to try to resurrect legislation that would get the support of conservatives as well as moderates.

Big pieces of legislation often start and fail before agreement can be reached, McCarthy said. “Members saw moving forward we were very close,” when the first vote was attempted, he said. “We’ll get it done.”

Meanwhile, Aetna Inc. dropped another shoe when it announced April 6 that it won’t participate in Iowa’s individual market in 2018, citing significant financial risk. Aetna has already pulled back from many ACA exchange markets, and the announcement followed Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s announcement April 4 that it also wouldn’t sell or renew individual and family ACA plans in Iowa effective Jan. 1, 2018.

Health insurers need $15 billion dedicated to a reinsurance program to cover high-cost claims in 2018 and 2019, Katie Allen, executive director of the Council for Affordable Health Coverage (CAHC), which represents employers, pharmaceutical companies, insurers, patient groups and physician organizations, told me.

It isn’t clear that would be the case under the American Health Care Act or the amendment adopted by the Rules Committee, she said.

Without clear reinsurance funding, as well as $9 billion for cost-sharing subsidies for low-income people to buy health plans in 2017, it isn’t likely that many insurers will continue to stay in the exchanges in 2018, Allen told me.

Read my full article here.

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