Anthem exit from Ohio's ACA exchange adds urgency to GOP efforts to repeal and replace healthcare reform law

U.S. Capitol with flag
Anthem's decision to leave Ohio's ACA exchange has added a renewed sense of urgency to the GOP's repeal efforts. (Getty/Andrea Izzotti)

Anthem has announced it will pull out of the Affordable Care Act exchange in Ohio, a move Senate Republicans say proves that the health insurance markets are set to collapse and makes repealing and replacing the healthcare reform law more urgent than ever.  

In a statement to FierceHealthcare, Anthem said that planning and pricing ACA-compliant plans has become more difficult as the individual markets are shrinking and federal guidance and regulations are continually changing. The payer said it was “pleased” with steps that have been taken to stabilize the individual markets, but said the markets remain volatile because of a lack of certainty about the future, notably for cost sharing reduction payments.

“As the Individual marketplace continues to evolve, Anthem will continue to advocate solutions that will stabilize the market to allow us to return to a more robust presence in the future,” Anthem said.

The move leaves a fifth of Ohio’s counties without a payer selling marketplace plans for 2018, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said Anthem’s move is a signal that the Senate needs to pick up the pace on its health reform efforts, reports The Washington Post. He said senators were alerted to the pull out while discussing healthcare.

“We need to stabilize the markets right now,” Barrasso said. “While we were in there, another company pulled out, which shows the continued collapse of the Obamacare market. I mean, it happened during the policy meeting.”

Barrasso dismissed a question about Anthem’s call for the Trump administration to fund CSR payments, saying the uncertainty is “Obama’s problem” because the previous administration made illegal payments.

RELATED: Health insurers get 90-day stay in House lawsuit over cost-sharing reduction payments

Republicans are now pushing for a vote on healthcare before the end of June, when the Senate would leave for the Fourth of July recess. However, despite the calls for quick action, senators in a planning meeting Tuesday were deeply divided on Medicaid reform, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The Medicaid issue is one of the most contentious the GOP has to solve, as major cuts to the program in the House of Representatives’ version of the American Health Care Act were almost universally panned by healthcare industry groups and are unpopular with the public. The split over Medicaid is so wide, according to the WSJ, that it could derail the entire repeal effort.

“It’s more likely to fail than not,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Ky., said, noting the growing factions. “We need to bring this to an end and move to taxes.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said that while many GOP senators want to see a more moderate take on Medicaid, a “critical number” are calling for more severe cuts. Republican senators have also been split on consumer protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

RELATED: Senate rifts over pre-existing conditions stray from party lines

The Republicans can only afford to lose two votes if they want to pass a health reform bill through budget reconciliation, their only clear option for a repeal. Otherwise, passing the bill would require flipping Democrat votes to repeal the ACA, a near-impossible task.

The Senate Budget Committee cleared the AHCA for the budget reconciliation process, reports Politico. The bill previously passed the Congressional Budget Office’s requirements for reconciliation.

RELATED: CBO releases score for Republican healthcare bill, estimates that 23M will lose insurance by 2026

But despite concerns that a bill might not pass in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said a bill from that chamber is making progress, according to an article from the Associated Press.

“We’re getting close to having a proposal to whip and to take to the floor. It’s been seven years to talk about health care,” McConnell said. “Doing nothing is not an option.”