Top health insurer group won't take position on Senate bill

Top health insurer group won't take position on Senate bill
© Getty Images

The leading industry group for health insurers says it is not taking a formal position on the Senate's ObamaCare repeal bill, though it praised the measure's changes to the private market while criticizing its Medicaid cuts.  

"We are not taking a support or oppose position," Kristine Grow, a spokeswoman for America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), told The Hill.  

Instead, the group is offering suggestions for how to improve the bill.  

Grow said the side of the bill dealing with the private insurance market had many favorable aspects, while the side of the bill dealing with Medicaid is more concerning. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The legislation would provide billions of dollars in a "stability fund" to help insurers pay for the cost of high-cost enrollees and bring down premiums. The bill also eliminates an ObamaCare tax on health insurers and funds key payments in the healthcare law known as cost-sharing reductions. Grow praised all three of those aspects as "very good for greater affordability."

A source of concern for AHIP, however, is that the bill would repeal ObamaCare's mandate for people to get coverage without replacing it with a different policy. That could mean people wait until they get sick to buy coverage, driving up premiums. 

Grow said AHIP wants to see a provision added to ensure people maintain coverage continuously, and don't come in and out.  

"We do still need a solution for continuous coverage," she said.  

Sources told The Hill that the draft bill does not include a provision to incentivize people to maintain coverage because there are questions on whether it would be allowed under Senate rules governing the fast-track procedure being used. Senate Republicans are still working on the language, which could be added next week.  

In contrast, AHIP is critical of the bill's Medicaid cuts. 

Grow said the group has "grave concerns about the amount of funding going into Medicaid."

"We're always concerned about coverage loss," she added. 

Asked if she thought the bill would result in coverage loss, Grow repeated that AHIP has "grave concerns about Medicaid funding."

She noted that a Congressional Budget Office analysis early next week will shed more light on that issue. 

There are also questions about whether the bill would provide stability in the insurance market in the long term, given that the stability fund money eventually expires. 

Still, "for immediate stability we are looking pretty favorably at it," Grow said. 

The insurance industry's lack of a forceful position has frustrated some Democrats, who want the industry to take a firmer stand against the bill.  

Other parts of the healthcare industry, notably hospitals, have come out strongly against the measure, denouncing it for causing millions of people to lose coverage and for billions of dollars in Medicaid cuts.