- Premiums in next year’s Affordable Care Act plans will be about 15% higher than this year because of short-term market uncertainty, according to a report the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released Thursday.
- The analysis also found that enrollment in these marketplace plans will increase slightly, but will be limited by reduced federal advertising and outreach efforts, as well as the higher premiums.
- The reduced federal outreach includes cuts of up to 98% for community groups that help people enroll in ACA plans. The organizations began receiving notice of their new budgets late Wednesday, about two weeks after their previous funding ran out, Vox reported.
The CBO report lends credence to the theory that efforts from President Donald Trump’s administration to hamstring the ACA are working as intended. Trump hasn't backed away from his plan of letting the individual market “implode” in order to gain a bargaining chip for future healthcare reform discussions.
At the beginning of the month, HHS said the overall advertising budget for the ACA was being cut by 90%. With massive budget cuts and the delay in receiving the funding, ACA navigator groups have been laying off employees and suspending some of their projects.
HHS argues the navigator groups are ineffective and have accounted for only a small number of enrollees each year. Advocates for the navigators say the numbers don’t tell the whole story. In addition to coaching ACA enrollment, the navigators help people access care after they obtains insurance and work with employers on ACA compliance. They also reach out to minority groups in their community to further knowledge of coverage options.
The CBO’s finding of premium increases because of likely market instability mirrors other analyses that show higher costs in early premium rate filings. The agency said one major cause for the instability is the uncertainty that payers will continue to receive cost-sharing reductions (CSR). Insurers have strongly urged future payments be assured, warning that otherwise they will have to leave the ACA marketplaces or substantially increase premiums. The CBO agrees.
There have been bipartisan talks in support of legislation to secure the future of CSR payments, but some Republicans instead continue to push for full ACA repeal. Meanwhile, 58 counties are at risk of having no ACA plan options next year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.