CT News Junkie | Uncertainty Continues To Drive Healthcare Discussion

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Uncertainty Continues To Drive Healthcare Discussion

by | Sep 11, 2017 3:51pm
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Posted to: Congress, Health Care, Insurance, White House

Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy and Access Health CT CEO James Wadleigh speak to reporters at a Legislative Office Building press conference Monday

HARTFORD, CT — U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said Republican President Donald Trump makes good on his promises so “he might” pull the plug on Obamacare subsidies.

“He has a deep distaste for anything that has President Obama’s name attached to it,” Murphy said. “The Affordable Care Act is clearly in his crosshairs.”

That’s why Congress is working to adopt incremental, bipartisan steps to repair the Affordable Care Act, which has been dubbed “Obamacare.”

Murphy said if he were to stop paying insurance carriers, his campaign of sabotage would be “unmistakably transparent.”

At the end of September, Republicans will no longer be able to pass a repeal bill with 50 votes. Murphy speculated they will try once more to repeal the ACA, but those attempts are made harder by the progress being made by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on a bipartisan package of reforms and fixes.

Murphy said the goal within the next seven days is to come up with a small package of reforms that can pass the U.S. Senate and send a message of stability to the insurance markets.

Murphy’s Republican colleagues are looking for more flexibility in how states design their insurance programs and Democrats are looking for more certainty for the individual insurance marketplace by guaranteeing some of the subsidies or helping states create a reinsurance program.

The first set of reforms the Senate plans on addressing would focus on waivers that would provide states greater flexibility in designing their insurance programs.

The second set of reforms would address the continuation of the cost-sharing reduction payments, which go to insurance carriers to help lower deductibles and co-payments for middle and lower-income individuals.

Connecticut carriers received about $50 million last year in those payments. The payments are made on a monthly basis and after threatening to get rid of them Trump has allowed them to be made in both July and August. It’s still unclear whether they will be made later this month.

Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade sent a letter Friday to U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander who chairs the Senate HELP Committee. The letter recommends funding the cost-sharing reductions, creating a reinsurance program, allowing for innovation through waivers, extending the moratorium on the health insurance tax, and any effort to make the cost of medical care more transparent.

Connecticut has prepared as best as it can for whatever happens to the Affordable Care Act.

Last month, the Insurance Department asked Connecticut’s two participating insurance carriers to submit what their rates would look like without the cost-sharing reductions. It’s no surprise that the rates would be about 34 percent higher than the original rate increase of about 18 percent for some silver plans.

Later this week the Insurance Department’s actuaries will have to decide which rate increase they will allow to move forward: The rate increase that assumes the payments will be made, or the one that assumes they won’t.

Access Health CT CEO James Wadleigh said they will know by the end of the week whether Anthem Health Plans and ConnectiCare Benefits plan to stay or leave the exchange and will adjust accordingly.

He said the Affordable Care Act is still the law and the only place Connecticut residents can get financial help for their health insurance is through Access Health CT.

As far as the individual mandate is concerned, Trump signed an executive order telling the Internal Revenue Service to ignore enforcement. However, Murphy said it’s still the law and no one should be playing “chicken” with the IRS.

The penalty for not having insurance for 2017 is $695 per person, or 2.5 percent of your household income, whichever is greater.

“This is all part of a deliberate campaign of sabotage by the president to create a cloud around the Affordable Care Act,” Murphy said.

However, “the law is the law,” Murphy said.

Wadleigh expressed confidence that Connecticut’s insurance carriers would continue to participate in the exchange in 2018.

“I really don’t think we’re going to get to a place where we don’t have a carrier,” Wadleigh said.

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