Uncertainty continues around the status of America’s healthcare system. Although the path forward on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) remains murky, one thing is clear: policymakers must preserve healthcare options that currently exist.
Tennesseans have seen firsthand the effect uncertainty and market instability has on access to affordable coverage. With BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and Humana both leaving the exchanges, thousands of Tennesseans will likely be left with zero options for purchasing affordable coverage in 2018.
If we don’t stabilize the insurance exchange market, even more Tennesseans could be at risk. That’s why hospitals, physicians and insurers are urging federal lawmakers to continue the ACA’s cost-sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies. These payments subsidize insurers so they can offer plans with lower out-of-pocket costs, which helps many Tennesseans purchase healthcare plans they can afford. In fact, nearly 85 percent of Tennessee’s 230,000 exchange enrollees receive some level of subsidy.
While Congressional Republicans continue to state their commitment to repealing and replacing the ACA, many also recognize the need to continue the CSR payments. They argue the CSR subsidies are essential to ensuring market stability and preventing more insurers from leaving the marketplace and ultimately leaving more Americans without access to coverage.
U.S. Sen. Tom Cole (R-OK), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee responsible for health spending, said Congress should approve funding for these subsidies. Cole stated he doesn’t “think anybody wants to disrupt markets more than they already are.”
U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Bob Corker (R-TN) has also pushed for policies that will preserve existing coverage, introducing legislation in March that would allow individuals to use the tax credits that would otherwise be used on exchange plans to help pay for any other private insurance plan offered in the state.
As policymakers in Washington, D.C. continue to debate federal healthcare policy, healthcare stakeholders – including hospitals and other providers – will push forward in supporting actions that maintain options for affordable coverage that are available today.