Leading the News
Most Insurers Seem Committed To Offering ACA Plans Next Year Despite Continued Uncertainty.
The Wall Street Journal (9/27, A1, Mathews, Subscription Publication) reports on its front page that Wednesday was the deadline for insurers to inform state officials if they intend to offer ACA plans in 2018. The article says so far, it does not appear that insurers are leaving ACA marketplaces en masse, in spite of the uncertainty they face regarding the healthcare law’s fate.
Reuters (9/27, Humer) reports that state insurance regulators “have negotiated to the bitter end to keep health insurers selling Obamacare plans in every county next year, in some cases taking a hard-line to prevent exits that leave residents without access to health coverage.” Yet, this is no guarantee that some insurers will not exit ACA marketplaces at the last minute. The article says many companies have suffered losses in ACA marketplaces, and they remain concerned about the uncertainty facing the healthcare law.
Meanwhile, USA Today (9/27, O’Donnell) reports that according to insurance experts, premiums for ACA plans being offered for 2018 are still rising “because of continued uncertainty about the Trump administration’s plans for the law.” This is still the case despite the fact that Senate Republicans’ latest ACA repeal bill collapsed on Tuesday. Data show that on average, rates are increasing by almost 60 percent in Virginia, 21 percent in Tennessee, 45 percent in Florida, and 16 percent in Mississippi. The article says that the Trump Administration has refused to guarantee reimbursements to insurers “for subsidies that reduce out-of-pocket costs, including co-payments and deductibles, for those who earn less than 250% of the poverty limit, which is $61,500 for a family of four.”
Legislation and Policy
Trump Intends To Issue Executive Order Allowing Purchase Of Health Insurance Across State Lines.
The Washington Post (9/27, Eilperin, Cunningham) reports President Trump said Wednesday that he may take executive action next week to allow insurance companies to sell plans across state lines and make it easier for individuals to purchase health insurance as a group.
The Hill (9/27, Weixel) reports that Trump said he intends “to issue a ‘very major’ executive order, probably next week, ‘where people can go out across state lines, do lots of things, and buy their own health care.’” He “said the order is ‘being finished now. It’s going to cover a lot of territory and a lot of people – millions of people.’”
The Washington Examiner (9/27, Kasperowicz) reports that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) commented on the matter, saying, “I think there’s going to be big news from the White House in the next week or two, something they can do on their own. … This is something I’ve been advocating for six months.” Paul added, “I believe that President Trump can legalize on his own the ability of individuals to join a group or a health association across state lines and buy insurance.”
Congressional Quarterly (9/27, Clason, Subscription Publication) reports Paul told MSNBC, “I think it’s bigger than Graham/Cassidy” and it is “bigger than any reform that we’ve talked about before to date but it hasn’t gotten enough attention.” Paul also said that it may not be an executive order, and explained, “I think it will be a reinterpretation of existing law with a more expansive definition of who can form an association.”
Senate Unanimously Passes Medicare Reform Bill.
The Hill (9/27, Sullivan) reports the Senate unanimously passed a bipartisan Medicare reform bill on Tuesday night. The CHRONIC Care Act expands some programs created by the Affordable Care Act and improves how Medicare pays for people with chronic conditions. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said, “This legislation will improve disease management, lower Medicare costs and streamline care coordination services – all without adding to the deficit.”
Sens. Alexander, Murray To Attempt To Resume Bipartisan Talks To Stabilize ACA Marketplaces.
Politico (9/27, Everett) reports that Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) Patty Murray (D-WA) will meet in an attempt “to salvage their bipartisan health care efforts, Alexander said in an interview.” Last week, House and Senate GOP leaders rejected that plan in favor of a last-ditch effort to repeal the ACA, but that proposal failed. Alexander explained that “he needs broader buy-in than just a deal between him and Murray, the two leaders of the Senate’s health committee.”
Senate Democrats Want HHS IG To Investigate Planned Shutdowns Of HealthCare.gov.
The Hill (9/27, Weixel) reports that on Wednesday, several Senate Democrats “called for an investigation into the Trump administration’s decision to periodically shut down the federal ObamaCare exchange website in the middle of the next open enrollment period.” They requested that the HHS inspector general “investigate plans for hours-long maintenance shutdowns of the Healthcare.gov website.” The senators wrote, “There has been no satisfactory explanation given for why these shutdowns are necessary, and they appear to be part of a pattern by the Trump administration to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.”
Public Health and Private Healthcare Systems
Anthem Says It Will Not Offer ACA Plans In Maine Next Year.
The Washington Times (9/27, Howell) reports that on Wednesday, Anthem said it will no longer offer plans through Maine’s ACA marketplace, “as insurers navigate choppy waters in the wake of the GOP’s failure to pass a repeal bill and square away plans to stabilize the markets.” The article says impacted consumers “will still have options on the exchange, though customers who want to re-enroll in Anthem plans will not be able to tap Obamacare’s taxpayer-funded subsidies.” The piece adds that to date, “every U.S. county is expected to have at least one option, though choice is dwindling and many consumers will face premium increases.”
The AP (9/27) reports that Anthem cited “market volatility and uncertainty” as its reasons for exiting Maine’s ACA marketplace. This action means that “Maine is down to two insurers offering plans on the exchange.”
The Bangor (ME) Daily News (9/27, Farwell) also reports that the company “cited a ‘shrinking and deteriorating’ customer base and uncertainty at the federal level over the fate of” the ACA.
Eastern Nebraska Adds New ACA Health Insurer Option.
The Lincoln (NE) Journal Star (9/27, Olberding) reports Medica announced Wednesday that it will offer Affordable Care Act coverage in 2018 on Nebraska’s Marketplace Exchange to residents in 23 counties in eastern Nebraska and two counties in Iowa. The new product, in partnership with CHI Health, will be available beginning November 1. Geoff Bartsh, Medica’s Vice President for Individual and Family Business, said, “Medica and CHI Health are committed to making care more efficient and accessible in Iowa and Nebraska.” The Journal Star adds that four years ago, the state had four companies offering ACA plans, but UnitedHealth and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska dropped out last year and Aetna is dropping out next year. Medica has around 36,000 policies in Nebraska this year and projects that number to hit 90,000 next year.
The Omaha (NE) World-Herald (9/27, Davis) reports that Medica’s insurance will be available to “most people in the Omaha metro area” and will include “co-pay, catastrophic and high-deductible plans.” Medica previously announced that its average rates for Nebraska plans will increase 31 percent – adding that with the federal subsidies, most customers will not actually pay that much more out of pocket.
Sen. Johnson Seeks Information On Whether Some States Got Improper Medicaid Funds.
The Wall Street Journal (9/27, Armour, Subscription Publication) reports Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) sent letters Wednesday to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Administrator Seema Verma, and the governors of eight states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, seeking information on whether the states received improper federal funding for expansion enrollees.
The Hill (9/27, Sullivan) reports the eight states are: California, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia.