Published: Fri, April 21, 2017
Culture | By Stewart Greene

Health insurers ask Trump administration for reassurance on Obamacare

Health insurers ask Trump administration for reassurance on Obamacare

"It makes insurance companies very nervous about making a misstep, extending themselves beyond what their capital would allow", he said.

Several states have followed an initiative by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to give insurers more time to file their 2018 premium rates in the Affordable Care Act marketplace. And given House Republicans' penchant for defying party leadership, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) might also need some Democratic votes to overcome conservative objections to the funding bill.

However, one week ago, Trump told the Wall Street Journal he was considering a freeze on subsidies in order to strong-arm the Democrats into supporting the American Healthcare Act, which was withdrawn before a congressional vote in March because of limited support.

Initial filings from Virginia and Kentucky show that insurers are still contemplating offering Obamacare coverage in 2018, even amid continuing uncertainty over Republicans' plans for health reform.

But while the administration can choose to stop making the payments to insurance companies, insurers would still be required to offer discounted policies. At that meeting, they sought reassurance that the administration would continue to provide cost-sharing reductions next year.

"We will not negotiate with hostage takers", said Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon.

In its latest national poll, released this week, Quinnipiac asked respondents an interesting question: "Do you think that Republicans in Congress should try to repeal and replace Obamacare again, or do you think they should move on to other issues?"

Eager for a victory, the White House is expressing confidence that a breakthrough on the mired Republican health care bill could emerge in the House next week.

Senior Democrats have called the payments a top priority in negotiations for a spending bill, which Congress must pass by the end of next week to avoid a government shutdown.

Administration officials are holding a meeting at the White House today [April 17] on Obamacare, according to a person familiar with the matter. Without the overhang of the cost-sharing subsidies or major changes to the law, health insurers would be on their way to a profitable 2018, after increasing rates more than 20 percent on average for this year, according to S&P Global Ratings analysis of Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plans.

The proposal represents a deal between Rep. Tom MacArthur, R., N.J., who is the head of the moderate Tuesday Group and Rep. Mark Meadows, R., N.C., who leads the far-right Freedom Caucus. The fate of the cost-sharing subsidies is also likely to affect their proposals.

Insurance companies have struggled to adjust to the individual marketplaces since the ACA created the exchanges. Funding for most departments and agencies of the federal government runs out on April 28. The decision was appealed by the Obama administration and the case has now been inherited by the Trump administration. North Dakota would see the smallest premium spike if the payments to insurers stopped-a 10-percent increase. By contrast, insurance premiums would rise 27 percent in MS and 25 percent in Florida and Alabama.

Of course, trying to legislate this way is as pathetic as it is unsafe, and there's little to suggest GOP lawmakers are prepared to put themselves at risk, simply to satisfy a symbolic goal meant to make Trump feel better about himself.

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