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Insurers tell Seema Verma number one concern is cost-sharing reduction payments

CMS head makes no promises to continue CSRs that insurers say are central to ACA market stability.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

Health insurers who met with the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Tuesday received no assurances of continued federal cost-sharing reduction payments.

In the meeting with insurers, CMS Administrator Seema Verma made no commitment to continue the payments, according to The Hill.

[Also: Insurers, providers decry Trump's threat to stop payment to insurers]

"We welcomed the chance to share perspectives on the value of coverage delivered to more than 70 million Americans through Medicare Advantage and Medicaid health plans, but reiterated our most pressing concern: the instability in the individual market created by the uncertainty of funding for the cost sharing reduction (CSR) program," America's Health Insurance Plans said in a statement issued after Tuesday's meeting. "We are committed to working with Administrator Verma, the Administration and Congress to ensure CSR funding is addressed quickly to provide clarity for consumers in 2017 and 2018."

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Cost-sharing reduction payments subsidize insurers for lowering the cost of deductibles for qualifying Affordable Care Act beneficiaries.

Without the payments, insurers are expected to exit the exchange market or increase premiums. Insurers are facing a deadline of June at the latest to set their premium rates for 2018.

[Also: Consumer groups, advocates split on Trump administration's shorter enrollment, 'continuous coverage' proposals]

Close to 60 percent of the consumers who buy plans on the exchanges receive the benefit of CSRs. The cost of ACA coverage would be out-of-reach for many of these consumers should CSR payments get pulled, AHIP has said.

President Trump has threatened to take away the payments if Democrats won't come to the negotiating table on an ACA repeal and replacement plan. Democratic leaders have said they aren't willing to discuss a deal while the president undermines insurer and consumer stability in the market.

[Also: (Updated)Paul Ryan resurrects GOP healthcare bill, adds federal risk pool amendment]

Numerous groups, including AHIP, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association joined letters to the president and Congress last week urging them to continue the cost-sharing reduction payments.

"Our industry appreciates the opportunity to begin a constructive dialogue with Administrator Verma on topics– such as the future of the individual market, Medicare and Medicaid – that are critically important to hundreds of millions of Americans and the direction of the U.S. healthcare system," AHIP said Tuesday. "We emphasized our commitment to ensuring that every American has affordable coverage and access to quality care, and to improving our nation's healthcare system."

Twitter: @SusanJMorse