The bipartisan compromise: cheap, worthless plans

by Harris Meyer, Modern Healthcare, August 3, 2017 (from PNHP)

Democrats and a growing number of Republicans are eager to steady the struggling individual market covering nearly 20 million Americans to prevent an exodus of insurers and healthy customers.

Senate HELP Committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who has scheduled committee hearings early next month on how to stabilize the market, wants to go further. He has proposed expanding state innovation waivers to allow states to waive ACA insurance requirements such as minimum essential health benefits. A bipartisan group of 40 House lawmakers, calling themselves the Bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, has offered a similar proposal.

The GOP goal is to allow insurers to lure more healthy people into the market by offering lower-priced plans. “Any solution… should also include greater flexibility for states in approving health insurance policies,” Alexander said.

Alexander also wants to let everyone buy very high-deductible catastrophic plans, erasing the ACA’s age cap of 30. That could conceivably win support from some Senate Democrats who offered a bill in 2014 to let insurers sell cheaper “copper” plans, with a lower actuarial value than bronze plans. It raises big concerns, however, among insurance leaders and experts who say consumers can’t afford the deductibles and cost sharing under current plans.

Alexander also might try to revive a bill he introduced with his Tennessee GOP Senate colleague Bob Corker earlier this year to help consumers in counties where no exchange plans are being offered. The bill would let them use ACA premium tax credits buy plans sold outside the exchanges, including plans that do not comply with ACA coverage rules.

The Bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus seeks changes in Section 1332 (which lets HHS grant states waivers to establish their own, customized coverage systems) to make it easier for states to win approval for setting up their own systems and to give them more leeway. House lawmakers also want to make it easier for states to enter into compacts that allow insurers to sell health plans across state lines in participating states.

ACA supporters and insurers say they’re potentially open to making 1332 waivers easier to get and more attractive to states, but only within limits. “My sense is there’s a willingness to expand state flexibility on 1332 waivers, it’s got a lot of potential,” said (Tom Daschle, the former Democratic Senate Majority Leader who’s now a healthcare lobbyist at Baker Donelson), who issued joint recommendations on that issue with former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich in late 2015.

Despite the looming policy clashes, some observers see a narrow window for a compromise deal on a market stabilization bill, especially since some Democrats in the past have signaled openness to letting insurers sell cheaper, skinnier plans.…

One Response

  1. Can’t wait until they unveil the Zinc Standard, wouldn’t it be wonderful if all their efforts to support the insurance companies end with Medicare for all:)

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