In the Health Reform Update for the past week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) prematurely releases their Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace standards for 2018. In an effort to prevent further Marketplace defections by major insurers, the new standards would make the changes to the ACA’s premium stabilization programs sought by insurers, increase the annual out-of-pocket limit for consumers, and allow separate medical and pharmacy deductibles for silver and gold plans.
The CMS standards ignore pleas from consumer groups to prevent plan discrimination against persons with high-cost conditions by requiring Marketplace insurers accept third-party premium assistance from charitable organizations like PSI. A Congressional bill that would force CMS to make that change gains 115 cosponsors.
Federal data show that the nation’s uninsured rate has reached a record low of 8.6 percent while a record jump in median household income (the first since the 2007-2009 recession) will likely result in further decreases in the future.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield spares one Arizona county from having no Marketplace insurers for 2017, while a reversal by Connecticut’s largest Marketplace insurer will ensure consumers can choose from more than one insurer. Only six of the non-profit Consumer Owned and Operated Plans (CO-OPs) created with ACA loans remain in operation after this week’s closure of Health Republic Insurance of New Jersey.