California’s Obamacare exchange scrubbed its annual rate announcement this week, the latest sign of how the ongoing political drama over the Affordable Care Act is roiling insurance markets nationwide.
The exchange, Covered California, might not wrap up negotiations with insurers and announce 2018 premiums for its 1.4 million customers until mid-August — about a month later than usual. Similar scenarios are playing out across the country as state officials and insurers demand clarity on health care rules and funding, with deadlines fast approaching for the start of open enrollment this fall.
“It’s insane,” says John Baackes, CEO of L.A. Care Health Plan, which has about 26,000 customers on the California exchange. “Here we are in the middle of July, and we don’t even know what rules we will be operating under for open enrollment. It is not how you want to run a business.”
Individuals could face sharply higher premiums and fewer choices if more health insurers leave the insurance marketplaces because of lingering uncertainty. State and industry officials around the United States are concerned that the federal government could stop funding so-called cost-sharing subsidies that reduce out-of-pocket costs for people with lower incomes. And they worry the Trump administration won’t enforce the individual mandate that requires people to purchase health coverage or pay a penalty.
Amid those concerns, there was a sense of relief Tuesday among many exchange officials and insurers after the U.S. Senate’s latest attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act failed.
Two large insurer trade groups bluntly warned last week that parts of the Senate plan were “unworkable” and could plunge the market into chaos. In a letter to the Senate, America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association particularly objected to an amendment by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that would have allowed insurers to sell bare-bones health plans to people who wanted cheaper premiums. That provision, the
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