ACA Helps Mend Differences Between Obama Admin., Insurers
The Obama administration increasingly has partnered with insurers to help reform the U.S.' health insurance market since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, the New York Times reports.
The relationship between the administration and insurers has changed significantly since before the ACA was passed, when the White House stumped for passage of the law in part by vilifying insurers for profiteering and canceling chronically ill U.S. residents' coverage. Further, insurers have long distrusted the government, for its ability to tax and impose burdensome regulations on the industry.
However, the two sides have formed a "mutually beneficial partnership" since the ACA's passage, according to the Times.
For example, insurers have helped the administration to stave off constitutional challenges to the law and fix issues such as the glitches that plagued HealthCare.gov during last year's open enrollment period.
Meanwhile, the ACA has provided insurers with opportunities to grow their markets by selling federally subsidized health plans through the law's insurance exchanges and expanding Medicaid coverage. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that about 170 million U.S. residents will have health coverage through Medicare, Medicaid or exchange plans by 2023, up by about 50% over 2013.
Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute, said, "Insurers and the government have developed a symbiotic relationship, nurtured by tens of billions of dollars that flow from the federal Treasury to insurers each year."
The newfound relationship with the Obama administration could pit insurers against the soon-to-be Republican majority in Congress, according to the Times (Pear, New York Times, 11/17). Sources in both the House and Senate have said that the GOP-controlled Congress intends to use various methods to dismantle and repeal the ACA (California Healthline, 11/12).
Insurers Relax After Easy First Days of Open Enrollment
In related news, insurers have expressed relief that the first few days of the ACA's second open enrollment period have gone smoothly, Modern Healthcare reports.
HealthCare.gov has functioned much better than it did during last year's open enrollment launch, according to Modern Healthcare. HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said one million people had visited HealthCare.gov and more than 200,000 had called federal call centers helping with enrollment as of Monday.
Health insurers have said the enrollment process has been positive so far and praised the federal exchange website's new window shopping feature. Molina Healthcare Senior Vice President Lisa Rubino said, "The first 48 hours went very smoothly. We didn't see many of the glitches we saw last year."
Insurers participating in state-run exchanges reported a similar experience. For example:
- About 3,600 individuals and families selected health plans through Massachusetts' exchange, which is about 11% of the total who enrolled through the exchange during the first open enrollment period;
- About 2,200 people enrolled in coverage through Kentucky's insurance exchange throughout the weekend; and
- About 500 people enrolled in plans through Minnesota's exchange (Herman, Modern Healthcare, 11/17).
Admin Recruits Celebrities for ACA Promotion
Also in related news, the White House is again enlisting celebrities to help spread the message about the ACA's open enrollment period, The Hill reports.
According to The Hill, dozens of famous actors, athletes and musicians have helped publicize the ACA's second open enrollment period. Monday marked the administration's first "celebrity days of action," in which the administration, HHS and Organizing for Action retweeted posts about the ACA from various celebrities' Twitter accounts.
A White House official said that administration is looking to "work with celebrities from across the country that have a diversity of following to amplify open enrollment again to raise awareness, and to make sure consumers know that the plans are affordable." The official added, "Celebrities and athletes plan to film [public services announcements], create online content, utilize Twitter and Facebook, and participate in days of action" (Sink, The Hill, 11/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.