Washington, D.C.– Regardless of the outcome of this week’s Senate health care debate, the Bipartisan Policy Center believes it is imperative to fund health insurance cost-sharing subsidy (CSR) payments before Congress leaves for August recess. If legislation passes the Senate and goes to conference, the timeframe for completion would far exceed the date required for CSR payments to stabilize the market and address high premiums for the plan year 2018.
“Consumers need a signal from the administration and Congress that they will not lose their health insurance in 2018,” said BPC Senior Vice President Bill Hoagland. “The most urgent and effective action that must be taken immediately is to make a short-term (two-year) commitment to maintain funding to health insurance plans for waiving cost-sharing to low-income individuals enrolled in the marketplaces.”
Over the past month, BPC’s Future of Health Care leaders have stressed that bipartisan collaboration is essential for producing durable policy solutions for the most pressing problems in health care. They have also strongly urged Congress and the administration to take steps to stabilize the private individual health insurance market. Based on feedback from states, insurers, consumer groups, and actuaries, we have concluded that a clear signal must be sent by mid-August that payments will continue.
Consumers need a signal from the administration and Congress that they will not lose their health insurance in 2018
“Both sides should set aside the current partisan impasse,” said BPC Health Policy Director Katherine Hayes. “As the debate has shown, it is impossible at this time to repeal the entire law. Congress should enact temporary short-term stabilization measures to address the most pressing challenges immediately, and work together to craft a longer-term, bipartisan solution.“
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has taken some action to stabilize health insurance markets through their accelerated approval of state waiver proposals. However, other factors continue to affect stability of the market. In recent months, plans have been notified on a month-by-month basis that cost-sharing subsidies would be paid. This lack of certainty is leading plans to increase prices and driving private insurers out of the individual marketplace for 2018. Also during the 2018 Open Enrollment Period, some outreach and enrollment efforts are being curtailed. Health plans have made it clear that when individuals have health problems, there is no need to encourage enrollment, but when healthier individuals fail to enroll, this leads to higher premiums for all enrollees.
“It is true that the markets are failing in some areas of the country; however, in most markets private insurance is stable,” added Hayes. “There is no question that change is needed, but incorrectly stating that health insurance is failing nationwide could lead to more healthy individuals not entering the market, and more health plans leaving it.”
Hoagland emphasized, “Funding CSRs would serve those who need health insurance coverage and assure health plans and the American people that our nation’s leaders reject the notion that letting the private health insurance market collapse is an acceptable answer to the challenges we face today.”