Congressional action to stabilize the individual health-insurance market should not be caught up in the lingering debate over Obamacare.
CONGRESS must act quickly to shore up the individual health-insurance market or as many as 18 million Americans — including 330,000 Washingtonians — might lose access to health insurance.
U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, and Patty Murray, D-Washington, are boldly leading a bipartisan effort to make some small changes to prevent a market collapse. They have called a quick succession of hearings to gather information and build consensus for a plan that could pass Congress by the end of the month.
Lawmakers in both parties and both houses must join this sensible effort.
This is not part three of the battle to take down the Affordable Care Act. It is part one of the fight to improve the health-insurance market for working Americans who are not covered at work.
President Donald Trump is correct about one thing concerning the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The system is in danger of imploding, but not for the reason he believes. The president’s own efforts to sabotage and starve to death the Affordable Care Act have put the individual health-insurance market in jeopardy.
Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler and others offer a short, smart list for Congressional action.
First, end the uncertainty about cost-sharing by the federal government. The president has repeatedly threatened to cut the money to keep deductibles, copays and premiums as low as possible for the working poor. If the federal government stops contributing to “cost-sharing reductions,” insurance companies will be left to cover these costs on their own in the short term. Then, Kreidler warns, they will just leave the market, because no business can afford to lose money to support a government program, no matter how worthwhile. Congress can fix this by passing a bill guaranteeing cost sharing will continue at least through the next coverage period, which ends in late 2018.
Second, give state insurance commissioners more flexibility to meet the rules of the Affordable Care Act. Negotiations on how to use a flexibility waiver in the program could be challenging, but giving the states some flexibility will help ensure everyone has access to health insurance in every part of the nation.
Third, continue the federal reinsurance pool that companies buy into to spread the risk of having to pay catastrophic claims by their customers when something goes terribly wrong with their health.
Fourth, keep spending money to promote the value of health insurance.
Despite what the president tweets, the Affordable Care Act is working well for many Americans. It could be even better with a few small changes.