‘Policy Brief’ Provides Little Insight Into ACA Changes

What Will Repeal and Replace Do? Don’t Know

::: Michael Hiltzik ::: Los Angeles Times

Congressional Republicans who have visited their home districts over the last few weeks have gotten a faceful of constituent rage about their plans to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act, which brings health coverage to more than 20 million Americans. Those who went home for the Presidents Day recess are likely felt a lot more heat.

In anticipation of that, House Republicans last week rushed out a “policy brief” on “Obamacare Repeal and Replace.” Unfortunately for the poor souls who will be meeting with constituents, the brief answers none of the key questions about the GOP’s plans for the ACA. It doesn’t state that they would avoid throwing millions of Americans out of the insurance pool, or that they would save money. It doesn’t give many specific details. It doesn’t say anything about the costs of its proposals, or how those costs would land on Americans of various income levels. It’s backed up by claims about the ACA that have been shown to be wrong or deceitful, or both.

The appearance of the policy paper also is important because of rising disquiet among insurers about the future of the ACA individual marketplaces. Earlier this week, Humana said it would withdraw from the market in 2018. Mark Bertolini, the chairman and chief executive of Aetna, declared that the marketplaces were experiencing a “death spiral,” which feeds into the GOP’s talking point that the ACA is doomed and therefore warrants repeal.

The insurers’ announcements deserve some scrutiny. Humana was a relatively small player in the ACA, with only about 152,000 customers in 11 states enrolled in ACA plans. As David Anderson of Duke University observes, its pricing strategy was not especially competent, tending to discourage healthy individuals from signing up while leaving its plans “attractive to an older population that is likely to be sicker.” Hence, losses. The article is here.