(Bloomberg) — The health insurance industry’s Affordable Care Act drama reached a climax on Tuesday, but it isn’t over.
With Senate Republicans’ failure to advance their bill to change the Affordable Care Act, insurers are facing a summer of uncertainty. President Donald Trump’s administration won’t commit to making Affordable Care Act critical cost-sharing reduction subsidy program payments. Health plans have pulled out of some markets, and raised rates in others. And there’s always the chance that Republicans could revive their effort to repeal the law.
“Our members and all Americans need the certainty and security of knowing coverage will be available and affordable for them,” said Justine Handelman, senior vice president of policy and representation for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
The next key moment comes in two days. That’s the date when the administration — which has threatened to let Obamacare fail — is scheduled to make its next round of monthly cost-sharing reduction subsidy payment to insurers
The cost-sharing reduction subsidy programs helps low-income people afford to use medical services. House Republicans have questioned whether the federal government has a congressional approval to make the program payments.
Analysts at Milliman have estimated the program accounted for $13.4 billion of insurers’ $206 billion in individual major medical revenue from 2014 through 2016.
So far, the White House — which has threatened to halt the subsidies in the past — hasn’t committed to making the payment.
“We are still considering our options,” Ninio Fetalvo, a White House spokesman, said in an email Tuesday.
The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association said it has “consistently urged that there be immediate, certain funding for the cost-sharing reduction program.” The insurers that sell under the brand collectively cover more than 100 million people in the U.S.
For some insurers, the best way to deal with the uncertainty around the Affordable Care Act has been to back away from it.
On Tuesday, UnitedHealth Group Inc., the U.S.’s biggest insurer, showed the benefits of avoiding the political minefield the law has become. It reported second-quarter profit that beat estimates and raised its 2017 forecast after turning its business away from the individual major medical market and more toward Medicare, Medicaid and coverage sold to employers.