Uncertainty in health care policy creates unstable markets, higher health care costs and fewer benefits.
What we think:
Congress should act cooperatively to compromise on health care policy to stabilize markets and create more certainty for providers.
As the state’s insurance marketplace marks its fifth anniversary, the health care landscape in the nation looks less certain than ever before.
And that uncertainty is bad for businesses, bad for the health care industry and bad for Colorado residents. Congress must act to solve health care issues and find a solution that doesn’t erase progress made in the past five years.
Connect for Health Colorado doesn’t rely on the Affordable Care Act to operate. The state legislature set it up separate from Obamacare so it could operate more independently. Still, people who benefit from the ACA must use the marketplace when they sign up for individual or small business insurance plans in order to receive federal subsidies.
Despite a 26.7 percent increase in premiums in the individual market this year, officials at Connect for Health say it’s been successful — it operates with a surplus, about 600,000 more people have health insurance now than in 2013 and people on the exchange say they are healthier than those on private insurance. Of the 435,000 people who get their insurance in the individual market, 43 percent of them go through the exchange.
All told, 5 million people in Colorado now have insurance.
Despite the success, there are some dark clouds looming. When Congress failed to continue funding the Child Health Insurance Program on Sept. 30, it left Colorado families in danger of not being able to provide health insurance for pregnant women and children. The plan covered 75,000 children in the state and 800 pregnant women. Colorado’s Health Care Policy and Financing Office says the state can cover the program through Jan. 31, 2018. But after that — absent action from Congress — those kids and families will no longer have any health insurance.
This matters — the rest of us will pick up the costs. Hospitals and doctors will pass the uncompensated care costs to businesses with insurance plans, to small business owners, to micro-business owners who must buy their own insurance in the individual markets. Rates will go up. And once they go up too high, hospitals could start to struggle under the heavy debt burden.
Combine the loss of CHIP with President Donald Trump’s latest signal that he will use administrative measures to undermine the Affordable Care Act because Congress could not come up with a replacement for it and it adds up to an uncertain, unstable market. That isn’t good for health insurance companies trying to plan their next fiscal year, for health care providers trying to meet their moral obligations to care for patients and for the patients themselves, left paying more with less certainty about their coverage.
It’s time for Congress to work across the aisle, for the president to leave social media long enough to form a consensus and for health care providers to weigh in on solutions that will keep people healthy and stabilize the insurance marketplace.
There is a middle ground between the two sides: We don’t have to embrace Medicare for All nor do we have to settle for a health care system where only the wealthy get coverage — and therefore get the best treatment.
Both the financial and physical health of the nation are at stake. It’s time to stop pointing fingers and fix what needs to be fixed with the Affordable Care Act, while also providing stability for the insurers, the providers and the patients.