Secretary Price responds to declining participation in 2018 health insurance exchanges

Composite image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Monday that fewer health plan issuers had applied to offer coverage under the federally facilitated health insurance exchange in 2018.

Following the report, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price issued a statement saying insurers find former President Barack Obama’s health care law “unworkable” and that they were “abandoning it in droves.”

The report comes out the same day President Trump put increased pressure on divided Senate Republicans to pass their stalled “Better Care Reconciliation Act” before Congress leaves for the August recess.

According to the CMS report, 141 individual market qualified health plan issuers submitted initial applications to offer coverage using the federally facilitated exchange eligibility and enrollment platform in 2018. This represents a 38 percent drop in initial filings from last year.

Each participating issuer is required to sign a final qualified health plan contract by the end of September in order participate in the exchange in 2018.

“Barely half the number of issuers who initially filed to sell plans on Healthcare.gov in 2016 want to participate in 2018,” Price said in his statement, “and a vast majority of them left before the most recent open enrollment period.”

He continued:

The situation has never been more dire. Americans are continuing to lose what health coverage they have and are forced to choose from fewer options or pay the IRS for the right to go without. This further limits their access to the doctors and healthcare services they need.

Congress must act now to repair the damage Obamacare has inflicted and put in place a patient-centered system that is responsive to the needs of individuals and families, not the demands of Washington.

Price was in Utah at the end of June to discuss, among other issues, these very sentiments as they pertained to the Republican Senate bill to repeal and replace Obama’s health care law.

Previous to his Utah visit, Price wrote an op-ed for Deseret News where he said Utahns have “a long and proud tradition of knowing exactly what they are for: family, community, industry, responsible stewardship of government and the God-given right to a free conscience.”

“These are the very values protected and enshrined in the Senate plan,” Price wrote.

Read more: New health care bill focus of Utah visit by health and human services secretary

Despite Price’s sentiments, the “Better Care Conciliation Act” faces mixed reviews from Utah senators. Sen. Orrin Hatch worked closely on the drafting of the bill in his role as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee; however, Sen. Mike Lee and four other GOP senators came out in opposition of it just hours after its release. Lee said it didn’t go far enough to repeal and replace Obamacare and lower healthcare costs.

The Republican bill was released on June 22, but amidst unified opposition among Democrats and several GOP senators either wavering or outright opposing the bill, a vote was delayed on June 29.

Read more: Lee comments on delayed health care vote; America First Policies attacks opponents

Trump renewed pressure on Republicans to pass the bill before the August recess, but according to The Associated Press, the week-long July 4 recess saw GOP support erode even further for the bill fashioned by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Previous to the recess, McConnell said he was willing to alter the bill to attract more support. Proposed revisions include rolling back some of its Medicaid cuts, adding additional money to combat abuse of opioids and other drugs, beefing up health care subsidies for lower earners and allowing insurers to sell low-cost policies offering meager coverage.

Moderate Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told reporters she hoped McConnell’s changes “are more than tweaks and they’re an overhaul of the approach, or else I won’t be able to support it.” She said lawmakers of both parties “should work together to fix” flaws in Obama’s law – an approach that would contradict GOP doctrine, which has long called for repealing the 2010 statute.

Collins has criticized the bill for causing millions of people to lose health care coverage and blocking federal payments to Planned Parenthood.

Conservative Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who joined Lee as one of the five original GOP senators opposing the bill, has repeatedly said it doesn’t go far enough in dismantling Obama’s statute. Paul said it will “have to look more like repeal” for him to support it.

I think we’re still at impasse,” Paul told reporters Monday in Shelbyville, Kentucky. “Some people think that they can add enough goodies, federal spending on there, to buy off the votes of Republicans.”

Paul said he spoke with Trump over the weekend. He said he thinks Trump wants “what I want, which is a conservative vision of health care which involves repealing Obamacare.”

At least a dozen GOP senators have expressed opposition to McConnell’s initial bill or criticized it. Republicans hold a 52-48 majority and Democrats stand united against the bill, meaning that just three GOP defections will doom it.

Conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was also among the five GOP senators and has proposed letting insurers sell any policies they’d like, as long as they also sell one that covers a list of services like maternity care that Obama’s law requires. Its fate was uncertain.

Meanwhile, a study found that the number of uninsured adults has grown by 2 million this year, underscoring that recent coverage gains have begun to erode.

The Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, published Monday, found that the uninsured rate among adults was 11.7 percent in the second three months of this year, compared with a record low of 10.9 percent at the end of last year. The losses were concentrated among younger adults and people buying their own health insurance policies, the survey found.

The reduction could reflect rising premiums and dwindling choices in the insurance markets created under Obama. It could also flow from Trump administration actions and comments about withholding support for the law, which some insurers have said are making them reluctant to offer coverage in some areas.

Associated Press reporters ALAN FRAM; BRUCE SCHREINER in Shelbyville, Kentucky; and ANDREW TAYLOR and RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR in Washington contributed to this report.

Email: pdail@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press as AP portions. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

 

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7 Comments

  • Utahguns July 10, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    Say you pay $800/month for health insurance with a $10,000 deductible and an 80/20 split thereafter (pretty common plan these days). So if nothing happens, you pay $9,600 for the privilege of coverage.

    If you keep this coverage and get hurt/sick with a $15,000 bill, your cost is now $20,600 ($9600 premiums + $10,000 deductible + $1000 copay).

    If you forego insurance and don’t get hurt/sick, you pay $0. If you forego insurance and get sick/hurt with a $15,000 bill, you pay $15,000 ($5600 less). That’s more than enough to pay for wellness visits and prescriptions. It’s not just talk radio fodder, it’s cold, hard scientific math.

    And its exactly the reason why young and healthy people are going to forego insurance and just pay the small fine (the fine is rediculous and unfair anyway…thanks Obama). Coverage does not equal healthcare; if it’s too expensive, people will drop it or not use it because of the high deductible.

    Making healthcare affordable is not about mandating coverage, as this leaves the healthcare industry free to charge whatever they want, and with the ACA mandating coverage, they have little reason to control costs.
    Controlling the cost of the healthcare, not mandating insurance premiums, is the answer, which….neither the Republican or Democratic party is willing to address.
    Market forces will not work on things with inelastic.

    We elected these politicians TO SERVE US. Get up and do your jobs, or get the hell out.

    • Utahguns July 10, 2017 at 3:40 pm

      ….And Congress is taking the month of August off for vacation ???

    • desertgirl July 10, 2017 at 6:39 pm

      You said it Utahguns. You and I know that the average citizen is ignorant of their government or just doesn’t care and vote for whoever promises what they ultimately cannot fulfill.

  • Brian July 10, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    Obamacare was designed to fail. That was the entire point of it. It’s entire purpose wasn’t to ensure people, but to destroy the open healthcare marketplace. Once that is done (and we’re getting close), then “single payer” (ie. socialized medicine) can ride in and save the day. That has been the plan from the beginning (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=926bPZiQhgY). Obamacare was a necessary, transitional step on the road to single payer.

    Of course single payer healthcare in the US will be a disaster, with frequently multi-year waits for even critical surgeries, just like in Canada and the UK. We’ll probably have people waiting in ambulances outside of ER’s for 10 hours, just like in the UK (http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/shock-ambulance-statistics-show-paramedics-12458892). Maybe we’ll even get to have the government basically own our children, as is the case right now with Charlie Gard in the UK, where the parents no longer have any rights to save their baby, despite having raised the money to do so, because the government says the baby has to die.

    Enjoy the health care / coverage you have in 2017, and maybe 2018, because it’s all down hill from here. It’s a race to the bottom.

  • Craig July 10, 2017 at 7:28 pm

    Utahgun outlined it nicely. Hard working people had their insurance cancelled ( told that would not happen) and were then ordered to insure at increased rates with staggering deductibles.

    Welcome to the VA for the rest of us.

    As an aside, health care and insurance is unconstitutional. And, the Supreme Court calling the fine a tax is an outright lie.

    Further, the government is ordering us to purchase a product.

    Is this really the unconstitutional government we want?

  • jaybird July 10, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    Single payer, Medicare for all works in Canada. Why not here?

    • Brian July 11, 2017 at 10:20 am

      If single payer is so great, why do so many wealthy Canadians (and others from all over the rest of the world) come to the US to have major surgery? I’m sure this trend is going down as Obamacare destroys our healthcare system.

      The reality is the best solution isn’t either private OR government, the best solution is a combination of both: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/michael-bolen/canadian-health-care-ranking_b_5503898.html

      There are a few conservative politicians calling for this approach, but the left are bent on single payer / socialized medicine like Canada or the UK. Unfortunately it seems like the republicans in power are bent on exploiting the opportunity for the gain of a few.

      I think the best solution is to have a mostly private healthcare and insurance system, with a combination of catastrophic insurance / wellness care for those that can’t afford private insurance. Taxpayer dollars can be used to sustain life, but shouldn’t be used to sustain lifestyle, or even optimal health. In short, we shouldn’t let people die of catastrophic illness, but we also shouldn’t subsidize their cigarette, alcohol, cheeseburger, candy, or soda pop addictions, and tax payers definitely shouldn’t be paying for their viagra. There is an expensive pill or surgery for everything these days, but only a small portion of that falls under the proper role of government.

      A good example of this is blood pressure. The tendency is to prescribe medications that literally change the body so that you’re dependent on them for life. The current system goes directly to the medication. A wellness approach would educate people that they can get the same benefits with ZERO side effects by taking garlic, Co-Q 10, and hawthorne berry supplements daily. At the same time me and a friend had blood pressure problems of a similar magnitude. I took the supplements, they took the prescription. They’ll have to go to doctors for life to get the prescription, and the pills cost more and have side effects (a persistent dry cough and who knows what else!). If my blood pressure starts going up again it’s my body telling me I need to sleep more, exercise more, lose weight, and eat better. If their blood pressure goes up it means an increased dosage or additional prescriptions and side effect. Which solution is better for the person and the system? I’ll go with mine, thanks. But it requires personal responsibility. And if the person chooses not to put forth that effort, why should the taxpayer be on the hook for the expensive approach?

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