States Scramble to Prevent Obamacare Exodus

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Insurance commissioners are pulling out all the stops to keep insurers from leaving their states amid uncertainty over ObamaCare’s future.

They are offering insurers new, previously unheard of flexibilities to try to keep them in the market.

But the effort faces an uphill climb, given the Trump administration’s wobbling over whether it will continue federal payments that compensate insurers for subsidizing out-of-pocket costs for lower-income households. There’s also the question of whether Congress will repeal ObamaCare this year.

Insurers are skittish and pleading for certainty from Washington. They want assurances that they will continue to receive cost-sharing reduction payments from the federal government, which total about $7 billion this year.

But no such promise appears forthcoming, prompting insurance commissioners to try and hold things together with later filing deadlines for enrollment and new concessions to insurers.

“As a regulator, instead of being rigid on timelines, the type of pricing I’m going to want, I’m being more open about this,” said John Franchini, New Mexico’s insurance superintendent. “I’m trying to be more flexible to give them confidence that if things change, we as regulators will be flexible with them.”

The biggest fear of the insurance commissioners is having every carrier pull out of a market, leaving people with no ObamaCare plans to buy. It’s a situation that hasn’t happened before, but could happen this year.

In several states, such as California, companies can file two different sets of premium requests: one for the continuation of ObamaCare — such as cost-sharing reduction payments and the enforcement of the individual mandate — and one for if both are discontinued.

“Based on what we were hearing from insurers, we anticipated Trump rates would be double-digit increases over the past year,” California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said. “I wanted to give insurers the opportunity to file rates based on Trump.”

Insurers are facing imminent deadlines in many states to submit their preliminary premium requests and state whether they’ll stay in the market. They also face a June 21 deadline to tell the federal government whether they’ll participate in ObamaCare next year.

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