Over the weekend the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) met in Denver, Colorado for their first meeting of 2017. Insurance commissioners and staff, industry representatives and consumer advocates gathered to discuss matters of insurance ranging from property and casualty issues like flood insurance to health insurance and the future of state implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). On the health track, it was clear from the beginning that although attendees might be far from agreement on a range of issues, all would unite around one truth: uncertainty leads to instability, and instability breeds anxiety – especially in the health insurance market.
Chief among the causes of uncertainty – and most certainly the root of a lot of anxiety – is the future of the ACA’s cost-sharing reduction payments, which are the subject of a pending court case and ongoing debate between Congress and the Trump administration. While resolution to this issue remains mostly speculative, insurers worry about pricing products without knowing if they will receive these crucial payments, and regulators and consumer advocates worry this uncertainty will cause carriers to exit the ACA’s marketplaces leaving consumers with few coverage options in 2018.
Several other issues received attention from a range of stakeholders including the need for strong enrollment numbers in 2018 as well as how important enforcement of the individual mandate is to a stable individual market. The consumer representatives to the NAIC not only echoed many of these themes in their comments and presentations during committee meetings but also elevated how attempts to repeal and replace the ACA as well as pending administrative changes would negatively impact consumers.
In a newly released report, the health-focused consumer representatives highlight the ongoing need for consumer protections and stability amidst a time of federal uncertainty. At the meeting, they also stressed to state regulators the importance of finding ways to strengthen the individual market and the need to continue raising concerns to Congress and the administration as they introduce policies that could undermine coverage for consumers in their state. Commissioner Kreidler and the Association of Washington Healthcare Plans are leading the charge this week with a letter to HHS detailing their ideas for market stabilization as well as an important suggestion to explore ways to address affordability concerns for consumers.
Time will tell if these messages make their way from Denver to D.C. However, when insurers, regulators and consumers all unite around one concern, reasonable minds should find that hard to ignore.