Anthem says BCRA will stabilize individual markets

As was the case with the American Health Care Act, Anthem has broken ranks with its fellow insurers and offered support for the Senate’s version of a healthcare bill.

The company said in a statement that the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 “will markedly improve the stability of the individual market and moderate premium increases  through substantial stability funding, appropriating cost-sharing reduction funds, aligning premium subsidies with premium costs, and eliminating the health insurance tax, which alone would result in a 3-5% premium decrease for our fully insured members."

UPDATE: Senate delays vote on ACA repeal, replacement bill

Other insurers, though, were not as pleased with the Senate’s bid to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

The CEOs of both Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Blue Shield of California, for example, issued statements that outlined their opposition to the measure.

Similarly, Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Bernard Tyson wrote that “we cannot support the current Senate draft bill, as it is clear that the changes to Medicaid and the reductions in subsidies for low-income people enrolled in the exchanges will lead to reduced coverage in our country.”

While the draft tries to address the need for individual market stabilization measures, he added, “these provisions are outweighed by the broader impact of the legislation.”

RELATED: Policy experts parse what the Senate’s bill would mean for the individual insurance markets

This is not the first time that Anthem has stood virtually alone in support of the GOP’s healthcare legislation. Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish wrote in a letter to lawmakers in March that House’s healthcare bill would “addresses the challenges immediately facing the individual market and will ensure more affordable health plan choices for consumers in the short term.”

He also called upon lawmakers to take other steps to stabilize the marketplaces, including funding cost-sharing reductions through 2019. Notably, the Senate’s bill fulfills that request, which other payers and healthcare trade groups had also lobbied for.

More recently, though, Swedish expressed concern about how the GOP's planned changes to Medicaid funding would affect the poor and vulnerable, saying it will be a “tall order” for organizations like Anthem to help Americans adjust to whatever legislation ends up passing. In fact, the insurer's most recent statement adds that "we are committed to working with our government partners now and into the future to navigate the challenges the current bill proposes to the Medicaid program."

Anthem has also announced plans to pull out of the ACA exchanges in Ohio, Wisconsin and Indiana next year, citing the volatility of the individual markets.

Yet by continuing to offer at least one plan off exchange in each state, it has left the door open to return to their exchange markets in more favorable conditions down the road. The insurer’s plans for 2018 participation in those states could also still change—and it has yet to decide about the other states where it sells individual plans.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to add additional detail from Anthem's statement.