Congress needs to act soon to reduce health care costs for those who buy their own insurance, the AAFP and several other organizations told legislators recently.
In a March 6 letter(2 page PDF) to leaders of both parties in the House and Senate, the organizations emphasized the need to address health insurance affordability and market stability in a spending bill that legislators must pass by March 23.
"Immediate action is necessary to reduce premiums for individuals and families that purchase coverage on their own," stated the letter, which was signed by the AAFP, America's Health Insurance Plans, the American Benefits Council, the American Hospital Association, the AMA, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, the Federation of American Hospitals and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Acknowledging the bipartisan work being done in Congress to improve affordability, the organizations identified two measures that could achieve this aim:
- a premium reduction/reinsurance program geared toward defraying the costs of patients with significant health care needs and
- long-term funding for cost-sharing reduction benefits.
A premium reduction/reinsurance program would not only assist individuals who have ongoing, complex health needs; it also could lead to lower premiums for everyone in the individual market.
Cost-sharing reduction benefits help low-income individuals afford deductibles and copayments. The federal government used to provide such subsidies through payments to insurance companies that offset out-of-pocket costs for expensive care. These payments allowed insurance companies to offer plans with lower premiums, but they were discontinued in October.
The letter cited results of recent analyses by Avalere Health(avalere.com) and Oliver Wyman Health(health.oliverwyman.com) indicating that if legislators took these steps, they could reduce premiums by as much as 27 percent and expand coverage for as many as 1.7 million Americans.
"Congress has an important opportunity to act and reduce premiums for consumers for 2019, but time is running short," said the letter. "Let's deliver on the promise to reduce premiums for millions of Americans and their families."
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