Kaiser Permanente CEO: We won't bail on ACA exchanges

Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson, right, and CNN's Donna Brazile pose together during an event in 2014. Tyson said this week that his organization plans to stick it out on the ACA exchanges, even as other insurers are fleeing. (Ted Eytan/CC BY-SA 2.0)(Ted Eytan / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Despite all the challenges facing the Affordable Care Act exchanges, Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson isn’t ready to give up on them just yet.

Tyson acknowledged during the Wall Street Journal Future of Healthcare event that the exchanges are “still very unstable,” according to the publication. However, he also made it clear that the Kaiser plans will remain in the marketplaces.

Kaiser currently sells ACA exchange plans in California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia, the article noted.

Tyson also disagreed with Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini’s previous assertion that the markets are in a “death spiral.” He wouldn’t use that term, he said, given all the progress the ACA has made toward the goal of increasing insurance coverage and healthcare access.

RELATED: ACHE 2017: Kaiser Permanente's Bernard J. Tyson on what's next for healthcare reform, access to care

Aetna confirmed earlier this week that in 2018 it will exit the few remaining exchange markets where it still operates, citing huge financial losses. Humana did the same in February, while other large insurers, including Anthem, are still on the fence about the extent of their participation next year.

One of the major causes of insurers’ reticence to remain in the ACA exchanges is the uncertainty surrounding the future of cost-sharing reduction payments.

The subsidies are the focus of a court case challenging their constitutionality, and they have been embroiled in a political tug-of-war in recent months as the Trump administration and Congress weigh whether to continue funding them after the case is resolved. But insurers have said that failing to fund them through 2018 could result in even more insurer exits from the exchanges.

President Donald Trump himself threw more fuel on the fire this week, when he said during an interview with The Economist that the ACA is “dead” and that the government is subsidizing it when it doesn’t have to.

“You know if I ever stop wanting to pay the subsidies, which I will," Trump said, later adding, "anytime I want."