Kevin Counihan, Andy Slavitt try to ease insurers' ACA worries

Though major U.S. health insurers have increasingly raised concerns about the sustainability of the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, federal officials say there are reasons to be optimistic that the market is stabilizing. CEO Kevin Counihan, speaking at a forum Tuesday hosted by America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), said results from the most recent open enrollment period indicate good news for the overall risk pool, as more young, healthy people are getting coverage, The Hill reports.

Recent earnings reports from the nation's five largest health insurers have pointed to worrying signs, with the companies saying high numbers of older and sicker ACA plan enrollees have driven up medical costs. UnitedHealth, citing its losses, has threatened to pull out of the exchanges in 2017, and Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers are also facing losses tied to individual market products.

But Counihan says that during the ACA's third open enrollment period, "we're seeing the maturing of a marketplace--people getting a bit more experienced and comfortable on how to buy coverage," The Hill reports.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt concurred during an earlier presentation at the AHIP forum Tuesday, adding that health plans, too, are still learning what products and services work best for consumers on the exchanges.

For the 2016 open enrollment period, that has often meant more narrow-network plans, which appeal to price-conscious customers and also help insurers trim costs. CMS plans to start labeling plans according to network breadth, but it has backed off on some proposals that would more strictly regulate network adequacy.

CMS also is working with the state-run ACA marketplaces to monitor any issues they're experiencing, Counihan said during his presentation. So far, he said, he's met with about 20 exchange CEOs and he and his state have visited 13 states. Lawmakers have criticized CMS' oversight of the state-run exchanges, as some have struggled with IT troubles and decided to switch instead to the federal enrollment platform.

To learn more:
- read The Hill article

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