Administration officials say fewer insurers filing an intent to offer coverage for 2018 shows the ACA is failing.
As Congress weighs the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), CMS on Monday announced a 38% drop in the number of insurers seeking sell policies on federal exchanges for 2018. The exchanges serve 39 states, accessed through HealthCare.gov.
“This is further proof tha the Affordable Care Act is failing,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement. “Insurers continue to flee the exchanges, causing Americans to lose their choice for health insurance or lose their coverage all together.
The number of insurers making submissions for individual market qualified health plans was 141, down from 227 at this point a year ago. Only 167 ultimately followed through to open enrollment, following the exodus of UnitedHealthcare and Aetna’s contraction from all but a few markets. A judge later said Aetna’s move was clearly tied to a Department of Justice decision to oppose its merger with Humana. Aetna will completely stop writing ACA coverage for 2018.
The drop was anticipated, as CMS had previously released a map in late June showing counties that it forecast will have just 1 insurer in 2018. CMS, which oversees the ACA, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, predicted that 49 counties will not have an ACA insurer. Most of the counties with no ACA insurers or only 1 were in the South or Midwest.
The House and Senate have weighed competing bills to repeal or replace the ACA. A bill has passed the House, but no vote is scheduled in the Senate. Some senators say their bill does not do enough to repeal the ACA and lower premiums while others say cuts to Medicaid are too steep.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has been unclear whether it will continue the subsidies that insurers say are essential to making ACA plans work. In May, after weeks of signaling it might cancel the subsidies, the administration delayed for 90 days a final call on whether to appeal a court ruling that seeks to end them.
While administration officials say the drop is proof that the ACA is failing, the law’s supporters insist Trump and his appointees have purposely created uncertainty to scare away insurers. Companies have until September to make a final decision on selling coverage for 2018.
In letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and 3 colleagues called on Republicans to work with Democrats to “provide stability and certainty to the health insurance markets.”