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GOP Governors Ask Congress to Keep ACA Subsidies in Place for 2018

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Republican governors joined with Democratic governors Thursday to ask Congress to keep the current Affordable Care Act individual health market subsidy programs in place for all of 2018 and 2019.

Gov. Gary Herbert, R-Utah, who supports the idea of changing ACA commercial health insurance programs, called for Congress to create a “glide path” to help individual health insurance issuers, and users, transition to any new system created.

(Related: 4 ACA Change Paths That Just Got More Popular

“Congress needs to act today to provide immediate certainty and stability for the individual insurance market,” Herbert said.

The glide path should include continuing funding for the ACA cost-sharing reduction subsidy program, which helps low-income ACA exchange plan users pay their deductibles and coinsurance amounts, Herbert said.

The glide path should also include funding for an alternative to the temporary ACA reinsurance program, which expired at the end of 2016, Herbert said. The ACA reinsurance program used a broad-based fee on health coverage issuers to help insurers pay some of the bills for individual health coverage users with catastrophic claims.

Herbert also recommended take steps such as providing adequate individual health insurance marketing campaigns, to maximize the percentage of younger, healthier people who pay for coverage, and tightening enforcement of the current eligibility rules for special enrollment period coverage purchases, to encourage health consumers to pay for coverage all year-round, and to not wait until they get sick to pay for coverage.

Herbert gave those recommendations at a hearing on stabilizing the individual health insurance market that was organized by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

The hearing was the second in a series of four hearings the Senate HELP Committee has scheduled for this week and next on stabilizing the individual health insurance market.

The first hearing, which took place Wednesday, brought in state insurance regulators as witnesses.

In addition to Herbert, the witnesses who appeared at the Senate HELP hearing on Thursday included Charlie Baker, a Republican from Massachusetts; Steve Bullock, a Democrat from Montana; Bill Haslam, a Republican from Tennessee; and John Hickenlooper, a Democrat from Colorado.

The Senate HELP Committee streamed the hearing live on the web. A video recording of the hearing, and copies of written versions of the governors’ remarks, are available here.

The other governor witnesses also talked about the need to keep ACA individual market subsidy funding in place for 2018 and 2019, even if Congress ends up making major changes.

“Carriers need certainty in order to finalize rates for plan year 2018 and begin preparing rates for 2019,” Baker said. “I cannot stress enough how critical it is for federal cost-sharing reduction payments to be resolved affirmatively in order to maintain market stability.”

Republicans in Congress and elsewhere have called for Congress to improve market stability by giving states more flexibility to adapt the ACA to fit local conditions.

Hickenlooper, who has worked with Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, to develop a bipartisan ACA-change proposal, said he supports the call for giving states more flexibility, and clearer guidelines on how to use an existing ACA waiver program, the Section 1332 waiver program.

— Read ACA Revamp Odds Slip as Senate Gets New Expiration Date on ThinkAdvisor.

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