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Donnelly Reiterates Call for Administration to Provide Market Stability and Work on Bipartisan Solutions to Strengthen Health Care System

October 12, 2017
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Donnelly-Joe-in-office-Wednesday, U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly again is calling for the Administration to commit to providing stability to health insurance markets and working together on bipartisan solutions to reduce health care costs, expand access to care, and strengthen the health care system.  Following up on his previous letter to Hoosier Seema Verma —Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) — Donnelly wrote to her again reiterating that the Administration should do no harm and work on constructive, bipartisan efforts. He urged the Administration to make a public commitment to continue CSR payments in a letter on July 21 to Seema Verma, whom he partnered with to establish Indiana’s Indiana’s bipartisan HIP 2.0 program through the health care law. To date, Verma has not responded.

InDonnelly’s latest letter to Vermahe wrote, in part, “Since my last letter, the Administration has taken additional measures to undermine the individual market by significantly cutting outreach and enrollment efforts, which may lead to lower enrollment, a sicker risk pool, and ultimately higher premiums for consumers. All these actions lead to a troubling pattern of purposeful weakening of the law, which only hurts the American public. I find these developments to be especially disturbing in light of our past conversations in which you expressed your desire to ensure more Americans have access to affordable health care and your commitment to work with me and individual states to strengthen our health care system.

“…The Administration has the ability to help provide market stability today, and I respectfully request that the Administration make a strong public commitment to continuing CSR payments, promoting and facilitating open enrollment, and working with Congress on bipartisan solutions to reduce health care costs, expand access, and strengthen the American health care system.”

Donnelly’s letter comes after repeated efforts by the Administration to undermine the health care system, which have resulted in premiums rising by an average of 20 percent for Hoosiers on the individual health care marketplace.  In particular, several insurance companies that offer coverage to Hoosiers, including two that left the market, cited uncertainty as it relates to the Administration’s refusal to commit to making CSR payments, as a key reason for increasing prices or leaving the market. CareSource, for example, told Donnelly several months ago in a letter, “If there was certainty that CSR payments would be made, we estimate that there would be a 2.2% rate increase, in aggregate, from our 2017 to 2018 rates.”

Over the past several months, Donnelly has participated in bipartisan negotiations and listening sessions with health care experts, led by Senate HELP Committee Chairman Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking member, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). These ongoing bipartisan discussions are intended to address concerns with growing market instability and state flexibility.

 

Full text of the letter is here and below.

 

 

 

October 11, 2017

 

 

The Honorable Seema Verma

Administrator

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Department of Health and Human Services

Washington, DC 20201

 

Dear Administrator Verma,

I am writing to follow up on a letter I sent you on July 31, 2017, in which I expressed concerns about comments and actions made by the Administration that demonstrate a desire to undermine individual health insurance markets at the expense of the health and economic security of millions of Americans.

At that time, I was specifically concerned about the Administration’s refusal to commit to making cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments, which help reduce copays and deductibles. As you know, on September 27, 2017, insurers submitted their final 2018 rates. As I noted in my last letter, I heard directly from insurance companies participating in the individual insurance market in Indiana that the Administration’s failure to commit to making CSR payments resulted in at least a 15 percent increase in 2018 premiums and caused some companies to withdraw from the market all together.[1]

Since my last letter, the Administration has taken additional measures to undermine the individual market by significantly cutting outreach and enrollment efforts, which may lead to lower enrollment, a sicker risk pool, and ultimately higher premiums for consumers. The Administration’s deep cut to the navigator program means the state of Indiana will face an 82 percent reduction in funding that is used to help people sign up for insurance.[2] Similarly, the Department of Health and Human Services has prohibited its 10 regional directors from participating in state-based open-enrollment events, signaling that the department will not promote a robust open-enrollment period.[3]

The Administration has also announced that it will shut down the healthcare.gov website for 12 hours every Sunday except one during the upcoming open enrollment period.[4] Because many individuals use the weekend to compare plans and purchase insurance for the upcoming year, this decision could further impact enrollment numbers. The Administration said the closures will be for regular maintenance, but closures for maintenance in previous years were much shorter and less frequent.

All these actions lead to a troubling pattern of purposeful weakening of the law, which only hurts the American public. I find these developments to be especially disturbing in light of our past conversations in which you expressed your desire to ensure more Americans have access to affordable health care and your commitment to work with me and individual states to strengthen our health care system.

As I stated before, as we work to improve our health care system, we must first do no harm. The Administration has the ability to help provide market stability today, and I respectfully request that the Administration make a strong public commitment to continuing CSR payments, promoting and facilitating open enrollment, and working with Congress on bipartisan solutions to reduce health care costs, expand access, and strengthen the American health care system.

 

 

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly

 

 

 

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