Alexander to Governors: Congress Should Make it Easier for States to Limit Premium Increases in 2018

Hosts 5 governors at 2nd of 4 hearings on effort to help with premiums, access next year in individual insurance market

Posted on September 7, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 7, 2017 – At the second of four Senate health care hearings this month, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said that his goal for the hearings is to produce limited, bipartisan, and balanced legislation to help 18 million Americans afford their insurance next year. 

“If Congress acts, “Alexander said, “we can limit increases in premiums in 2018, continue support for co-pays and deductibles for many low-income families, help make health insurance available for the 18 million Americans in the individual market, and lay the groundwork for future premiums decreases.”

“Just yesterday, an insurer in Virginia announced it will pull out of parts of the state for the 2018 plan year – leaving 62,000 Virginians facing the very real prospect of having zero options for insurance next year.”

After meeting Wednesday to hear from state insurance commissioners, the committee met today to hear from five governors, including Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam (R-Tenn). Governors Charlie Baker (R-Mass.), Massachusetts, Steve Bullock, Montana (D-Mont.), Gary Herbert, Utah (R-Utah), and John W. Hickenlooper, Colorado (D-Colo.), also testified.

“Our goal is to get a result in a very short period of time on a 2018 stabilization package that is small, bipartisan and balanced,” said Alexander. “What this committee heard at yesterday’s hearing was focused and helpful. We are focused on the narrow part of the insurance market where we have most of the problems – this is the individual market where only 6% of the insured get their insurance. There were a number of good ideas on stabilizing the market for the short term, and we have a short list of some things that might make some real differences in the 23 states that have actually started the process of applying for a 1332 waiver for additional flexibility under the Affordable Care Act.”

“I'm hopeful that maybe some combination of continuing cost sharing for a period of time and significant changes in flexibility for states--probably, mostly through changes to section 1332 since it's already in the Affordable Care Act-- might provide a basis for action we can take this month.”

Alexander concluded, “This action wouldn’t end the process—that would only be step one and then we’d go pretty quickly to step two on a long-term strong vibrant individual market and I hope we can begin to spend most of our time on the larger issue of healthcare costs.”

Next week, the committee will meet on September 12 to hear from health policy experts on state flexibility and September 14 to hear from a state insurance commissioner, doctors, and patient advocates. 

Alexander’s full remarks are available here:

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