Insurers say Trump must do more to stabilize 'Obamacare'

Monday, 17 Apr, 2017

"Obamacare" is proving more of a challenge than the Trump administration bargained for.

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau presents the most detailed picture yet of the dramatic rise in the number of people covered by health insurance since the Affordable Care Act went into effect.

Insurers and policy analysts are watching the Department of Health and Human Services for signs that the Trump administration will abandon efforts to undermine the ACA and focus on encouraging insurers to participate in the individual health markets, Kendall said.

Suffering the humiliating defeat of their Affordable Care Act "repeal and replace" plan, Republicans discovered what President Donald Trump did, namely that healthcare is really complicated.

Even as Trump threatened the subsidies, his administration on Thursday took a set of limited steps to strengthen the marketplaces in other ways. Data shows that those who sign up for coverage after December 16th, are more likely to be young, healthy people we need in the risk pool. This was the single biggest bit of uncertainty facing insurance companies this year, and this announcement should ease a lot of their short-term concerns.

The Affordable Care Act's worst enemies are now in charge of the vast range of health coverage the law created.

These payments are called "cost-sharing" subsidies and they are anathema to many conservatives who see them as corporate welfare and social welfare. "Nearly 60% of all individuals who purchase coverage via the marketplace - 7 million people - receive assistance to reduce deductibles, co-payments and/or out-of-pocket limits through CSR payments", they wrote.

The Washington Post reported earlier on Wednesday that Trump wants to review ACA repeal before tackling tax reform.

"If they present it as a way to help ensure people can get coverage for the next year and half, not something they have to do until the ACA is repealed, then it would be a huge success in the short term", he said.

"Refusing to make the Cost Sharing Reduction payments has no goal but to hurt millions of people, and manufacture a crisis", House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. The new administration has continued to make cost-sharing payments to insurers as it weighs options.

Customers will have 45 days to shop for 2018 coverage, starting November 1 and ending December 15.

The rule shortens the open enrollment period to six weeks - from November 1 to December 15 - rather than three months.

The rule also allows more variation in the value of benefits that insurers can provide, within its classes of plans. And it requires consumers to pay any past-due premiums they owe before enrolling again with the same insurer.

Taxpayers will pay more, as premiums grow and tax credits for low-income families increase, than if CSRs are funded. Deadlines for insurers to file their 2018 plans with regulators are typically in May and June.

This year saw premium increases averaging 25% for a standard plan in states served by HealthCare.gov.

And Frederick Isasi, executive director of consumer group Families USA, said the regulation was unnecessary since the Congressional Budget Office and other analyses have said the individual market was stable and would remain so for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, the legal issue over the cost-sharing subsidies remains in limbo. House Republicans sued the Obama administration over the payments, arguing they were unconstitutional because Congress never appropriated the money. The case is on hold. The House Republicans failure to even vote on their legislation revealed there is nothing close to a Republican consensus about how to replace or even reform Obamacare.

On Capitol Hill, Republican and Democratic leaders have voiced support for continuing the payments until a resolution is reached, in order to keep insurance markets stable.