Quick im­pact looms in re­peal

If the Se­nate votes for even a par­tial roll­back, in­sur­ers could be­gin back­ing out.

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By John In­gold

Health in­sur­ers have filed their pro­posed plans for 2018, and the Repub­li­can-led ef­forts to pass a fed­eral health re­form bill ap­pear stalled. But plenty of change could still lie ahead for Colorado’s in­surance mar­ket this year, de­pend­ing on crit­i­cal fed­eral de­ci­sions.

The first de­ci­sion could come as early as next week, when U.S. Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell has vowed to bring a par­tial re­peal of the Af­ford­able Care Act, also known as Oba­macare, up for a vote. The vote ap­pears likely to fail, but, if it passes, health wonks say it could have an im­me­di­ate im­pact on Colorado’s in­di­vid­ual in­surance mar­ket.

That’s be­cause — even though the re­peal wouldn’t take ef­fect un­til 2020 — in­sur­ers could be­gin back­ing out of the state this year in re­sponse to any pol­icy changes at the fed­eral level.

“That would greatly desta­bi­lize the in­di­vid­ual mar­ket or throw it into a death spi­ral,” said Adam Fox, a spokesman for the Colorado Con­sumer Health Ini­tia­tive.

The changes would at first only im­pact the in­di­vid­ual mar­ket — where peo­ple buy health plans on their own and which has been most sub­ject to queasi­ness from the roller­coaster of fed­eral health laws over the last sev­eral years. The in­di­vid­ual mar­ket cov­ers about 7 or 8 per­cent of Coloradans, but that’s still hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple.

The re­peal, as pro­posed in the Se­nate, would end in 2020 the tax cred­its that help many peo­ple in the in­di­vid­ual mar­ket pay for their pre­mi­ums. Also that year, it would end the ex­tra sub­si­dies that help low-in­come peo­ple pay for de­ductibles and other out-of­pocket costs.

But in­sur­ers, know­ing that ma­jor changes are com­ing to the in­di­vid­ual mar­ket, could be­gin pulling back this year — or ask­ing to charge even higher rates.

In­sur­ers on the in­di­vid­ual mar­ket in Colorado are al­ready propos­ing an av­er­age rate hike of 27 per­cent for 2018. But the state also al­lowed in­sur­ers to sub­mit a sep­a­rate set of rates for an al­ter­nate sce­nario where the low­in­come de­ductible sub­si­dies are not funded.

In ad­di­tion to the re­peal bill, Pres­i­dent Donald Trump this week sug­gested he might pull fund­ing for those sub­si­dies.

State In­surance Com­mis­sioner Mar­guerite Sala- zar would not say last week what those al­ter­nate 2018 rates are, but she said they are higher than the cur­rently pro­posed rates.

“Those are hope­fully never go­ing to be made pub­lic be­cause we hope to never have to use them,” she said.

In­sur­ers also have un­til Septem­ber to pull back from of­fer­ing plans in some coun­ties. Vin­cent Ply­mell, a spokesman for the state Di­vi­sion of In­surance, said in­sur­ers can­not exit the state en­tirely for 2018 at this point be­cause they have to pro­vide no­tice 180 days in ad­vance. But they can scale back their foot­print — which could still leave peo­ple in some coun­ties with­out any op­tions in the Af­ford­able Care Act mar­ket­place.

“When you start tin­ker­ing with any one of those fac­tors,” Salazar said, “it re­ally up­sets the mar­ket.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.