Thursday, 21 September, 2017

Senators seek bipartisan deal to shore up insurance markets

COLUMN: Cutting ACA advertising is deceptive Consumer advocates cry foul as Trump administration makes drastic cuts to health care advertising
Christy Curtis | 07 September, 2017, 01:36

Insurance commissioners told lawmakers Wednesday that Obamacare's individual market is near collapse as premiums continue to rise and health insurers flee the marketplace.

"To get a result, Democrats will have to agree to something - more flexibility for states - that some are reluctant to support", said Sen.

"I think we did a pretty good job today of not blaming each other", panel Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said afterward.

The Senate health committee was holding the first of four scheduled hearings Wednesday, with testimony planned from five states' insurance commissioners.

Not having an insurer on the exchange would prevent more than 70,000 individuals and families in CT from receiving subsidies that help them pay their monthly insurance premiums, including about 46,000 low-income residents who also get help with out-of-pocket costs like copayments and deductibles.

The insurance commissioner from Tennessee, Julie Mix McPeak, cited similar concerns. "The new funding formula will ensure accountability within the Navigator program".

Launched in 2013, the Navigator program was meant to engage consumers and provide them with information and educational outreach concerning the new health insurance exchanges.

Senators want are looking to seal a modest bipartisan deal for shoring up the country's individual health insurance markets. "Any discussions about a waiver will be with an eye on our overall healthcare reform efforts, including quality and cost of healthcare". There were even bipartisan words of support for proposals to provide money to states to help insurance companies afford to cover customers with serious, costly medical conditions.

Alexander and Murray are looking to soften the blow on the 18 million Americans who buy coverage in the individual market, about half of whom don't qualify for any help from the federal government.

"It should be noted that the instability in Oklahoma's market, the spike in premiums, the rise in deductible levels, and the constriction of networks have all occurred while CSR payments were being made to insurers", Doak said. "To summarize Tennessee's experience over the last four years, our consumers have seen premium prices skyrocket while their plan choices have diminished".

"We've got a few weeks to come to consensus in this seven-year-old partisan stalemate, and if we don't break it, some people will be priced out and badly hurt", Alexander said.

Officials with the Health and Human Services Dept. announced late last week that the federal government will cut the Obamacare advertising budget by 90 percent, going from $100 million to $10 million in the upcoming 2018 enrollment season.

The senator said there seems to be a "direct correlation" between a drop in federal marketing of the ACA and enrollment.

Mr. Alexander and powerful House GOP committee chairmen would prefer to appropriate the money through next year, though they want to pair the funding with efforts to let states duck the law's tighter strictures on insurers, employers and consumers.

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