A bipartisan group of U.S. governors has signed a letter urging Congress to bolster the Affordable Care Act before insurance companies make decisions for 2018. The letter detailed suggestions for stabilizing health care markets instead of outright repealing the 2010 law.
On Aug. 31, eight governors submitted a letter to both the House and Senate offering recommendations to improve the ACA. The effort was led by GOP Gov. John Kasich of Ohio and Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado.
"Continuing uncertainty about the direction of federal policy is driving up premiums, eliminating competition, and leaving consumers with fewer choices," the letter stated. "We ask you to take immediate steps to make coverage more stable and affordable."
The letter was also signed by Democratic Govs. Steve Bullock of Montana, John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, Terry McAuliffe of Virginia and Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania; GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada; and independent Gov. Bill Walker of Alaska.
The governors recommended that Congress keep the individual mandate that legally requires Americans to purchase health insurance or face a tax penalty. The letter stated that the mandate was unpopular but "for the time being ... is perhaps the most important incentive for healthy people to enroll in coverage."
The governors called for a $15 billion "stability fund" that would help states reduce premiums for at least two years. They also urged for Congress to exempt insurance companies from a federal tax to encourage competition in underserved regions and allow states to procure waivers to opt out of ACA-mandated essential benefits.
The letter also urged the Trump administration to continue advertising ACA enrollment to prod more Americans to sign up for insurance and to guarantee continued cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies.
President Donald Trump has previously signaled that he would discontinue CSR payments that reimburse health providers for taking on costly patients. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that cutting off CSR payments would raise premiums by up to 25 percent by 2026, according to The Hill.
Greg Moody, the director of Ohio's Office of Health Transformation, asserted that Hickenlooper and Kasich were pushing for congressional compromise to avoid a punishing health care market in 2018.
"We're one month from insurers having to make decisions about next year, so if Congress and the administration are going to act, it's going to be now," Moody told USA Today. "There are a group of governors here who think this is urgent."
If GOP lawmakers adopted the letter's recommendations, they would effectively announce that the ACA would remain the U.S. health care system for the foreseeable future. On Aug. 10, Trump indicated that he still wanted Congress to outright repeal the law.
"Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn't get it done," Trump tweeted out. "Must Repeal & Replace ObamaCare!"