The headline says it all. What door is Congress going to finally open in the effort to either fix the Affordable Care Act or do away with it.
This week you can expect to see a bipartisan bill to stabilize insurance markets — which is good news for insurers — from Sen. Lamar Alexander’s Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. He and the Democrat’s ranking member Sen. Patty Murray of Washington are working on a deal that will include multiple year funding for the cost-sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies.
"It's pretty easy to be for extending cost-sharing payments and that's just more money, and we can argue about how long it will be. But we will have no chance of getting that, unless in addition to that, we have some restructuring of the market," Alexander said.
And that restructuring has to include a lot of the ObamaCare rules that are unpopular with Republicans.
State insurance commissioners — including Washington’s quite vocal Mike Kreidler — testified at one of Alexander’s hearings. “Congress should enact a federal reinsurance program with a minimum duration of three years. It will significantly help stabilize the individual health insurance market,” Kreidler told Alexander’s committee.
Tennessee Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak agrees. “The CSR funding issue is the single most critical issue that you can address to help stabilize insurance markets for 2018 and potentially bring down costs,” she said.
Before decisions are made this week — and they may have already been made by the time you read this — the committee will hear from the nation’s health insurers. Testifying will be officials from Kaiser Permanente, Anthem and other large and small insurers.
The CSR funding is not just a top priority for this committee. It is a must for insurers.
And it is a must for the people. Estimates in some camps say without them premiums will definitely be higher. Experts believe premiums would have been 20% higher in 2014, up 12% in 2015 and 6% more in 2016.
They also want the government to really enforce the individual mandate. This insures that healthy individuals as well as sick individuals participate and that lowers costs. As you know one of the first acts of the Trump administration was to tell those affected by the Affordable Care Act to not enforce that mandate.
The Trump administration has also decided to cut grants for marketing for those helping people sign up for insurance. That cut will be 40%. Insurers say it’s important the money is available to help people understand what they’re buying.
The Trump administration loathes to do anything to fix ObamaCare. The president contends it is collapsing under its own weight. Former Oregon Insurance Administrator and former Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner and now Human Services secretary Teresa Miller disagrees. She told Alexander and his committee that ObamaCare is not failing. “I’m not going to sit here this morning and tell you that the ACA is perfect. I think we all know that it’s not, but the narrative that the ACA is failing and imploding is just false,” she said.
Democrats are still in political heaven over the failure of the Republican plan to dismantle and remake Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act into the party’s own image. Encouraged by the failure and hoping that a single-payer health care system will now resonate with the people and the majority of the Democrat Party, Sen. Bernie Sanders is going to introduce a plan to create one.
By the time you read this he will have made the official announcement.
Sanders claims he has the support of several Democrats like Sen. Elizabeth Warren — who has confirmed that — and California Democrat Sen. Kamala Harris and from medical professionals, business leaders and — yes — consumers.
Republicans aren’t giving up either. Sen. Bill Cassidy and Sen. Lindsay Graham have introduced a revised replacement bill. They say Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised a vote on the matter if they can get 50 colleagues to back the measure.
It would repeal most of ObamaCare’s mandates and will send block grants to states to take care of the health insurance needs of the poorest in those states.
Source links: The Washington Post, The Hill — link 1, link 2, link 3, Insurance Business America