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Kasich, Hickenlooper release plan to stabilize ObamaCare markets

Congress should retain ObamaCare’s individual mandate until there’s a better replacement, according to a proposal released Thursday by a bipartisan group of governors.

The compromise plan, which is spearheaded by Govs. John Kasich of Ohio (R) and John Hickenlooper of Colorado (D), is meant to help lawmakers find common ground to help stabilize the insurance markets.

The governors acknowledged that the mandate, which requires people to purchase health insurance or pay a fine, is unpopular.

“[B]ut for the time being it is perhaps the most important incentive for healthy people to enroll in coverage,” they wrote to House and Senate leaders of both parties. “Until Congress comes up with a better solution — or states request waivers to implement a workable alternative — the individual mandate is necessary to keep markets stable in the short term.”

Governors of six other states also signed onto the plan: Alaska, Nevada, Louisiana, Montana, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The plan’s release comes ahead of a series of bipartisan Senate hearings starting next week on how to stabilize and strengthen the individual insurance market. Hickenlooper is expected to testify along with other governors at one of the hearings.

The governors also called for the Trump administration to immediately commit to funding key cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurers. The administration hasn’t committed to making the payments beyond this month and has repeatedly threatened to cancel them.

The governors noted the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), the National Governors Association, and the United States Chamber of Commerce have identified the payments “as an urgent necessity.”

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that not making the payments would drive up premiums 20-25 percent and increase the federal deficit by $194 billion over ten years.

The governors also said they support creating a temporary stability fund to provide money to bring down premiums by helping insurers cover the costs of the sickest enrollees, an idea known as reinsurance.

The House and Senate each recently proposed $15 billion annually for states to address coverage and access disruption in the marketplace as part of their respective ObamaCare repeal bills.

Similar ideas, especially the funding of CSR payments, are in discussion in the Senate Health Committee, along with a bipartisan group in the House known as the Problem Solvers Caucus.

Stabilizing the individual market could be an area of bipartisanship, though it’s already drawn ire from conservatives, who argue that any action would be providing bailouts to insurance companies.

Kasich and Hickenlooper have been doing a range of joint appearances pushing for bipartisan solutions to stabilize insurance markets and bring down premiums. Both have batted down reports that the pair could be considering running on a bipartisan ticket for the White House in 2020.

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