Washington state down to one bare ObamaCare county

Washington state down to one bare ObamaCare county
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Premera Blue Cross intends to sell plans in a Washington state county that previously looked like it would not have an ObamaCare plan, leaving just one county in the state without an insurer in 2018.

Earlier this month, insurance companies filed their rates and their intentions to sell health plans on Washington’s ObamaCare market. When the results came in, two counties were bare.

At that point, Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler began contacting carriers and urged them to reconsider.

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Kreidler said in a statement that he continues to “work diligently” to ensure consumers in the last bare county, Klickitat County, will have an option on the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace.

The state’s average premium hike is 22.3 percent, according to a news release.

Other areas have faced the same predicament this year.

For example, Anthem pulled out of Ohio, leaving at least 18 counties without an insurer. 

In Tennessee, the Knoxville area seemed as if it also wouldn’t have any plans on its exchange, but BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee decided to sell there with the caveat it would exit “in the event of any post-bid changes that destabilize the market,” the company said in a letter.

Insurers exiting the marketplaces have cited the lack of certainty that they’ll continue to receive payments from the federal government compensating them for lowering the out-of-pockets costs of some enrollees. They’ve also pointed to the uncertainty surrounding ObamaCare itself, which may be repealed by the GOP Congress.

Republicans are using insurer exits to bolster their case for repeal. Democrats counter that the GOP and the White House are driving carriers to leave ObamaCare markets because of the uncertainty surrounding the health law and cost-sharing reduction payments intended to help insurers provide coverage for lower-income people.

Two key chairmen — Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), of the Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee, and House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) — have recently called for federal funding to continue for the cost-sharing reduction subsidies. 

They haven’t gotten a definitive answer from the Trump administration. 

At a hearing last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said, as a defendant in the lawsuit, he couldn’t say much beyond “the budget reflects the continuation of CSR payments until the litigation is resolved.”

The House previously sued the Obama administration, alleging it was illegally funding the payments that total about $7 billion this year.

The House won, but the Obama administration appealed the decision. The court case is currently on hold.