Marketplace Stabilization Package Stalls Amid Rising Premiums
After seven months of bipartisan negotiation, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee leaders abandoned efforts to stabilize the individual insurance market for this year. Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) had been working since the fall on legislation to restore cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers – key payments that lower the cost of health insurance sold on the individual market.
“I greatly respect the senator from Washington and enjoy working with her, but on this issue, I think we’ve reached an impasse,” said Chairman Alexander during a speech on the Senate floor last week.
Senators Alexander and Murray had previously partnered on high profile legislation like No Child Left Behind and the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016. It was expected on Capitol Hill that they would once again be able to strike a deal, this time on stabilizing the Affordable Care Act. However, due to outside policy influences like abortion and concerns from House leadership on the bill’s ability to pass the lower chamber, the negotiations stalled. In the end, the bill was omitted from the 2018 omnibus spending package signed into law last Friday.
EFFECTS ON BEHAVIORAL HEALTH SERVICES
This agreement would have extended funding for needed cost-sharing reduction subsidies (CSR) for individual insurance plans. These subsidies lower out-of-pocket costs for low-income individuals who purchase insurance through an Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace exchange. Without these payments, insurers are likely to be forced to significantly increase premiums or will pull out of the exchanges altogether. Either development would directly impact Americans’ ability to access quality mental health and addiction services.
There are currently no known plans to revisit this legislation before end of the 115th Congress.