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Several states push back premium rate filing deadline as uncertainty surrounds cost-sharing reduction payments

Survey shows nearly all insurers currently in the exchanges will remain, but half say it's too early for them to set their premium rates.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

Photo Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AUscapitolindaylight.jpg">Kevin McCoy, via Wikimedia Commons</a>Photo Credit: Kevin McCoy, via Wikimedia Commons

Several states have followed an initiative by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to give insurers more time to file their 2018 premium rates in the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

Congress is expected to start hammering out a new healthcare bill to repeal and replace the ACA after the spring break, but time is getting short for insurers to decide whether to stay in the exchanges, and what to set for a premium rate.

[Also: ACA market is headed toward profitability if left alone, S&P Global says]

Numerous insurers, citing financial losses with the product, have dropped out or reduced their footprint in the ACA market for 2018.

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Interestingly, an Oliver Wyman survey released Monday shows nearly all responding insurers currently in the exchanges will remain for 2018.

[Also: Obamacare premiums to rise 22 percent, most will be shielded by tax credits]

About half of the insurers surveyed by Oliver Wyman Health said it was too early for them to determine their rate increases and that they needed more time to evaluate their 2017 risk pools and performance.

Half of the responding ACA insurers said they planned a rate increase of 10 to 20 percent; 25 percent are planning a rate increase of less than 10 percent; and 25 percent plan on an increase greater than 20 percent, according to the Oliver Wyman survey.

[Also: 'Red state' legislatures show renewed interest in Obamacare's Medicaid expansion]

The average rate increase in 2017 was 22 percent.

In February, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services pushed back the 2018 rate filing date from May 3 to June 21 to give insurers more time amid uncertainty about the ACA.

New Hampshire, Kentucky and Colorado have recently moved their rate filing deadlines from April or May to early June, according to NBR/CNBC.

Some states are holding firm on their original deadlines, the published report said. California, Connecticut, Maryland and Oregon have May 1 deadlines for rate submissions, and New York plans to keep its May 15 deadline.

Seventy percent of the payers surveyed by Oliver Wyman Health plan on carrying on as is with no major shift in strategy. Thirty percent are adjusting their ACA lines of business by changing the number of plans offered, or shifting to narrower networks. Some said they could eliminate the more expensive gold-level plans.

What's needed most to determine their premium rates and to stabilize the market is an assurance from the federal government of the continuation of cost-sharing reduction payments, health insurance executives told CMS Administrator Seema Verma on Tuesday.

Neither Verma, nor President Trump, who is holding the threat of cutting off funds to CSRs over Democrats to get them to the negotiating table, have promised to continue the payments.

The CSRs allow insurers to offer low-income consumers lower deductibles. Without them, premiums would rise, executives told Verma, and according to America's Health Insurance Plans, to levels 58 percent of consumers on ACA plans could no longer afford.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse