August recess is typically a quiet time in Washington, but that is not the case this year. Earlier this week, the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis that found that ending cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments, as President Trump has repeatedly threatened, would increase the deficit by $194 billion over 10 years. Cutting the cost-sharing payments would end up costing the government more because insurance companies will raise rates in response. The report predicted that premiums for benchmark plans sold on the ACA exchanges will rise about 20 percent next year and about 25 percent by 2020. In the long-term, the number of uninsured will not change significantly, as plans realign to make up for the loss of the CSR payments.
On Wednesday, the White House said it would make the CSR payments to insurers for another month, buying the president some time to decide whether he’ll continue the payments long-term or cut them off altogether. This uncertainty is causing insurers to preemptively raise rates. In meetings with Congressional offices, NCCS has learned that Senators Alexander (R-TN) and Murray (D-WA) are working on a bipartisan stabilization package that would fund the CSR payments long-term. This is where advocacy can be extremely helpful on this issue. Call your Senator today (844) 257-6227 and ask that Congress and the Administration do the right thing and fund cost-sharing reduction payments that help families afford health insurance. CSR payments are not a bailout for insurers, but rather a win-win for patients and the government.
It is also critical to highlight that efforts to repeal the ACA are not completely off the table as the Graham/Cassidy/Heller bill gains traction. Senator Cassidy (R-LA) said he’s meeting with the Trump administration “two or three times per week” on a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. Cassidy has teamed up with Senators Graham (R-SC) and Heller (R-NV) on a new proposal that would essentially block-grant Obamacare funding to the states while repealing the law’s individual and employer mandates. This proposal would be devastating for cancer survivors as it would lead to the largest cuts to Medicaid of any Republican replacement proposal so far. Allowing states to opt out of patient protections would leave Americans with skimpy or unaffordable coverage.
In positive news, the problem of “bare counties” with no insurer offering plans in 2018 has been largely resolved. According to Margot Sanger-Katz in the New York Times, “A few months ago, it looked as if large swaths of the country might end up without any insurers willing to sell Obamacare insurance in 2018. But in the last few weeks, the ‘bare county’ problem, which President Trump had cited as a sign the markets were failing, has nearly solved itself.” Only two counties, with less than 500 enrollees combined, have no insurer at this point.
NCCS has urged Congress to work in a bipartisan fashion to fund CSR payments to help stabilize insurance markets and to strengthen the ACA so health care is improved for those living with cancer. Recess is a great time to meet with your Members of Congress in your districts and states to make your voice heard. Please contact Lindsay Houff at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to set up a meeting with your Members.