Portman presses HHS for answers on failed ObamaCare co-op

Portman presses HHS for answers on failed ObamaCare co-op
© Greg Nash

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSchumer blasts 'red flag' gun legislation as 'ineffective cop out' McConnell faces pressure to bring Senate back for gun legislation Shaken Portman urges support for 'red flag' laws after Ohio shooting MORE (R-Ohio) is asking the Obama administration for answers on the situation facing 22,000 Ohioans enrolled in an ObamaCare co-op insurance plan that is going out of business. 

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Portman wrote to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on Thursday, asking for action to protect the enrollees. 

The letter comes after an announcement last month that the nonprofit health insurance plan in Ohio set up under ObamaCare, known as a co-op, would shut down due to financial losses. 

Thirteen out of the original 23 ObamaCare co-ops have now failed, and Republicans have seized on the problems as evidence that ObamaCare is not working. 

The administration, working with state regulators, had sought to shut down any co-ops facing problems before this year’s coverage began to avoid midyear disruptions, but Ohio’s co-op was allowed to start the year.

Portman, who is facing a close reelection race, argues that enrollees in Ohio’s co-op, known as InHealth, are now facing a dilemma. 

Enrollees have the option to stay in their current co-op health plan through the end of the year, but they would lose their financial assistance under ObamaCare, making that option difficult for many to afford. 

While most enrollees may choose to enroll in a new plan, Portman said, there is a drawback there as well. Consumers could have to start over on reaching their deductibles in a new plan, meaning any out-of-pocket payments they made toward the old plans would no longer count.

In other states, some insurers have chosen to count payments toward the deductible in the old plan, but Ohio insurers may not. 

Portman says the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should protect consumers from having to start over on their deductible. 

“Remarkably, HHS now claims that it has no responsibility to protect these consumers, despite the fact that HHS designed and managed the CO-OP program and encouraged Ohioans to trust in the Obamacare marketplace,” Portman wrote. 

Portman asked in the letter about the possibility of HHS paying a credit to consumers toward meeting the deductible in their new plans. 

“We will respond directly to the Senator,” CMS spokesman Aaron Albright said in a statement. “We are working with InHealth and the state to provide consumers with the information they need to stay covered.”