Anthem gives thumbs-up to American Health Care Act

Anthem, one of the country’s largest for-profit insurers and a major player on the individual exchanges, has come out in support of Republicans’ bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Joseph Swedish
Joseph Swedish

The American Health Care Act, Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish wrote in a letter to congressional leaders obtained by Morning Consult, “addresses the challenges immediately facing the individual market and will ensure more affordable health plan choices for consumers in the short term.”

Some of the most promising provisions of the bill include the expanded use of health savings accounts, the repeal of the health insurance tax, the continuation of cost-sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies and the fact that consumers will be permitted to use tax credits to purchase “off-exchange” plans, the letter said.

The tone of the letter echoes Swedish’s comments during a recent meeting between President Donald Trump and various insurance executives, during which he said Anthem was “thrilled” with regulatory fixes proposed by the Trump administration to stabilize the marketplaces.

Anthem does, however, have a few suggestions it would like to see policymakers consider. For example, the company wants to ensure the continuation of comprehensive Medicaid benefits—including home and community-based services. The letter also called for reforms that may not be possible to include in a reconciliation package, such as appropriating funds for CSRs through 2019.

Swedish said he supports pushing through the changes necessary to stabilize the marketplaces—including those that are part of the current bill—as quickly as possible, or “the market will continue to deteriorate in 2018.”

During Anthem’s fourth-quarter earnings call with investors last month, Swedish said the company will consider extracting itself from the individual exchanges if doesn’t see the policy changes needed to stabilize that market. To push for such changes, Anthem and other Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers, which cover the vast majority of exchange enrollees, have put a lot of effort into lobbying lawmakers about healthcare policy since the election.

Leading trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans, meanwhile, said in a separate letter to Congress that while it supports certain aspects of the American Health Care Act—such as those that would stabilize the individual market—it is concerned about some of the proposed changes to Medicaid.