Senate HELP Committee Adds Two Hearings on ACA Individual Market Stabilization; Governors Present Framework of Their Own Bipartisan Stabilization Plan to Congressional Leaders

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) announced yesterday that it will hold additional bipartisan hearings on Affordable Care Act (ACA) individual market stabilization on September 12 and 14. The hearings will follow the two already scheduled for September 6 and 7, during which state insurance commissioners and governors, respectively, will testify.

Senate HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) said the September 12 hearing will focus on ways that states can be given more control over their own individual markets. The “state flexibility” expert witnesses will include Michael Leavitt, former HHS secretary and former Utah governor; Allison Leigh O'Toole, CEO of MNsure of Minnesota; Tarren Bragdon, CEO of the Foundation for Government Accountability; Bernard Tyson, CEO of Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Health Plan; and consulting actuary Tammy Tomczyk.

The September 14 meeting will feature testimony from healthcare stakeholders representing doctors, hospitals, insurers, patients, and insurance commissioners. These include Manny Sethi, MD, president of Healthy Tennessee and an orthopedic trauma surgeon from Nashville; Susan L. Turney MD, MS, FACP, FACMPE, CEO of Marshfield Clinic Health System, Inc., in Wisconsin; Robert Ruiz-Moss, vice president of  Individual Market Segment, Anthem, Inc.; Christina Postolowski, Rocky Mountain regional director of Young Invincibles in Colorado; and Raymond G. Farmer, director of the South Carolina Department of Insurance and secretary-treasurer of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

As we have reported, the committee is holding a series of hearings this month, as Chairman Alexander plans to have a market stabilization package ready by September 27 in order to keep premiums affordable for the 18 million Americans who buy their insurance plans on the individual market. September 27 is the date by which insurance companies must sign contracts with the federal government to sell their coverage on the federal exchange in 2018.

In other market stabilization news, Governors John Kasich (R-OH) and John Hickenlooper (D-CO) shared a letter to Congressional leaders detailing their bipartisan framework for stabilizing the individual market. The letter, which outlines their plan, is signed by six other governors, including Brian Sandoval (R-NV), Bill Walker (I-AK), Tom Wolf (D-PA), John Bel Edwards (D-LA), and Steve Bullock (D-MT). In the letter, the governors argue that “changes to our health insurance system should be based on a set of guiding principles that include improving affordability and restoring stability to insurance markets. Reforms should not shift costs to states or fail to provide the necessary resources to ensure that the working poor or those suffering from mental illness, chronic illness, or addiction can get the care they need.”

Their plan includes cost-sharing reduction payments, greater state authority under the ACA’s 1332 State Innovation Waivers, and $30 billion in state stability funding. It also would keep the ACA’s individual mandate for the time being in order to maintain a balanced risk pool.

In their bipartisan healthcare proposal, the governors recommend (1) immediate federal action to stabilize markets, (2) responsible reforms that preserve recent coverage gains and control costs, and (3) an active federal/state partnership that is based on innovation and a shared commitment to improve overall health system performance.

We will keep you updated.