Insurers Scrambling to Keep up with ObamaCare Repeal

Insurance companies are scrambling to figure out a way to move forward, аfter Senate GOP decided to pull the plug on bipartisan negotiations and repeal ObamaCare. Senate may vote to repeal ObamaCare next week, The Hill reports.

The push raises concerns for insurance companies because if it becomes law, insurers will face a whole new world in 2020, with states deciding how to use millions in block grant funding that will come from Washington. If it fails, it’s uncertain if there will be another bipartisan push.

“They look at this market and see problems,” said Chris Sloan, a senior manager with the consulting firm Avalere Health who describes insurers as having been invested in the bipartisan talks.

The major issue for the insurance firms is that they’re uncertain if the Trump administration will carry on federal cost-sharing reduction payments, allowing these companies to lower out-of-pocket costs for lower-income consumers.

But there are other worries as well, which Sloan said include premium increases, competition and fear that fewer people will sign up next year because of other administrative changes.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ deadline to complete premium rates was Wednesday. Insuring companies have until September 27 to sign the contracts and lock them into selling plans on the federal exchange.

“We may see some departures, I think the uncertainty in Washington is not helping matters,” said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms.

“But I think carriers recognize how dire the consequences are if they do make such a late decision on the customers that they serve.”

With the deal dead, it’s unclear whether the payments will continue, though the White House did foot September’s bill. A White House spokesman said no decision had been made about future payments. If the administration stops the CSR payments, insurers still, by law, have to offer discounts to lower income ObamaCare enrollees — whether they get reimbursed from the federal government or not.

“If I was an insurer my biggest concern right now about 2018 — I’ve already submitted my rates, that process is basically done — would be that October or November or December or January, the administration stops paying the CSRs,” Sloan said, “and I’m locked in, and I don’t have an opportunity to adjust my rates, and I’m basically locked in for a year not receiving any of those funds.”

The insurance industry has to price in future risks, so predictability is key — and they’ve been pleading with Congress and the administration for stability.

“I think what’s worrying them is the unpredictability of this administration and the unknown — that they cannot price for,” Corlette said.

“And so that is causing, I imagine, many sleepless nights among insurance executives right now.”

The legislation would have “real consequences on consumers and patients by further destabilizing the individual market; cutting Medicaid; pulling back on protections for pre-existing conditions; not ending taxes on health insurance premiums and benefits; and potentially allowing government-controlled, single payer health care to grow,” the group said.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association also has “significant concerns,” though, the association comprised of 36 companies didn’t explicitly say it opposed the bill.

“The bill contains provisions that would allow states to waive key consumer protections, as well as undermine safeguards for those with pre-existing medical conditions,” the association said in a statement Wednesday.

“The legislation reduces funding for many states significantly and would increase uncertainty in the marketplace, making coverage more expensive and jeopardizing Americans’ choice of health plans.”

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