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Insurers seek market stabilization prior to April rate-setting deadline

HHS draft proposals obtained by Politico are aimed at keeping exchange market stable for insurers in 2018

Susan Morse, Associate Editor

As President Donald Trump hinted this week on Fox News that an Affordable Care Act replacement bill may not be ready this year, insurers are facing an April 1 deadline to file health plans and premium rates for the 2018 Affordable Care Act marketplace.

During earnings calls last week, some insurers voiced uncertainty over staying in the exchanges, due to losses in the marketplace and a lack of market stability.

Politico said it obtained two draft documents from Health and Human Services on a plan to keep insurers in the exchange market while legislators draft an ACA replacement.

To stabilize the insurance market, HHS's draft proposals may limit enrollment and increase what older Americans pay for their plans. Significantly, the proposals make no change to Obamacare's individual mandate, according to Politico.

[Also: Republicans still struggle to find consensus on Affordable Care Act replacement]

The draft plan may loosen an Obamacare provision barring insurers from charging older customers more than three times as much as their younger enrollees, Politico reported.

HHS may also propose shortening the 2018 enrollment period to the usual starting date of Nov. 1 but ending on Dec. 15 rather than at the end of January 2018. Consumers signing up during special enrollment periods would face more restrictions.

New rules may also allow for greater consumer out-of-pocket cost, and less of a grace period for those who fall behind on their premium payments.

Stabilizing the market is needed as President Donald Trump has taken steps to begin dismantling the ACA.

[Also: Trump hints Obamacare repeal could stretch into 2018 in Bill O'Reilly interview]

During the last week of this enrollment season, the Trump administration took down $5 million in advertising for the Healthcare.gov website.

Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini has said the insurer won't be re-entering markets it left last year because there's not yet enough information on what's happening with the ACA. It would be 2019 before Aetna could implement a program, he recently told Bloomberg.

Aetna's product losses in the ACA totaled $450 million in 2016.

Anthem and Cigna are reportedly wavering on whether to offer exchange coverage in 2018.

America's Health Insurance Plans President and CEO Marilyn Tavenner recently offered ways to stabilize the market.

These include continued federal subsidies such as the advanced premium tax credits and cost-sharing reduction payments and full federal reinsurance payments for 2016. 

Twitter: @SusanJMorse

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