Linda Delancey: Uncertainty is compounding health insurance crisis
June 14, 2017
The headlines decry "Obamacare in Death Spiral" and cite as proof that insurance companies are pulling out of health insurance exchanges. In truth, Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act is being sabotaged by the uncertainty perpetuated by the current administration.
The president outlined his strategy early on in his administration saying, “The best thing we can do is let Obamacare explode. Let it be a disaster because we can blame that on the Democrats.” Unfortunately, he gave no thought to how his plan would affect the public including many of those who voted for him.
After eight years of rhetoric, the Republicans have yet to come up with a solid plan other than repeal of the ACA. Insurers cannot begin to decide whether to offer coverage for 2018 until they know how the government plans to change the rules.
Uncertainty is the enemy of any company, and right now, no one knows if this administration will continue to make subsidy or cost-sharing reduction – CSR — payments to defray medical costs for lower income people. The House health care bill eliminated those payments.
Then too, there is a case on appeal from a successful 2014 Republican lawsuit to stop those payments and this administration could simply drop the appeal. Should that happen, insurers would be on the hook for billions of dollars in medical expenses.
Many who participate in the insurance exchanges found their premiums increased by 20 percent or more for 2017, and it may get worse. Anthem has an enormous impact on Northwest Colorado and their Chairman and CEO Joseph Swedish, said recently, "We are notifying our states that if we do not have certainty that CSRs will be funded for 2018 by early June, we will need to evaluate appropriate adjustments to our filing. Those adjustments could include resubmitting higher rate increases, or exiting certain individual ACA-compliant markets altogether." Stay tuned.
The original Obama health care bill offered a public option — sort of a government run health insurance company to compete with existing companies and keep the rates down. That option was dropped in order to get the bill passed.
However, a similar idea is now gaining traction in several states. The Nevada legislature has presented their governor with a Medicaid for All plan. California, New York and other states are considering Medicare for All type coverage.
The Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care and the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation continue their grassroots efforts to create some type of single-payer health care system in our state. Perhaps with this latest congressional fiasco, which slashes care for millions, these groups may gain more traction.
At the beginning of this administration, Standard & Poor’s market analysis confirmed the ACA was stable and on a path to continued improvement. The Congressional Budget Office says the system is still mostly stable. Participants at town hall meetings across the country have expressed strong support for the current plan.
Colorado's Senator Cory Gardner is a member of the small select committee that is crafting the Senate bill behind closed doors. Word is they intend to put the bill on the Senate floor — no hearing, no experts, no public input — the first of next month looking for a quick win before going home for recess.
Call Senator Gardner now to and tell him to support improvements to the ACA, not repeal, and stop the uncertainty that is affecting all of us. Senator Gardner: Washington, 202-224-5941; Denver, 303-391-5777.