Official says Trump administration supports stabilizing insurance markets, but demurs on details

White House
The Trump administration has not set any numerical goals for health insurance enrollment, as was common under the Obama administration. (Getty/AndrewSoundarajan)

In a development that might not provide much reassurance to insurers, a Trump administration official says the administration wants to stabilize the health insurance markets—but provided few details about what it will do to accomplish that.

The official spoke to about 20 reporters Wednesday on the condition of anonymity, according to the New York Times. “We want the healthcare market, the individual marketplace to function and to function well,” the official said, adding, “it is not functioning, the way it is today.”

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However, the person declined to say whether the administration would continue funding cost-sharing reduction payments, or how much it would award in grants to navigators to help people enroll in coverage through the Affordable Care Act exchanges.

In addition, the official said the administration has not set any numerical goals for health insurance enrollment—as was common under the Obama administration—and isn’t sure whether it will do so.

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey found that 500,000 fewer people were uninsured in the first three months of 2017 compared to the same period last year—a change that isn’t statistically significant, suggesting coverage gains have stalled. Still, it noted that there are 20.5 million fewer uninsured individuals now than in 2010.

Doubts about ACA stewardship

With the annual open enrollment period for the ACA exchanges set to begin Nov. 1, the Trump administration has faced increasing questions about its handling of the law’s most visible component. It has already ended contracts with two companies that helped coordinate enrollment assistance in various cities, and a wide array of groups have said the federal government is no longer working with them on consumer outreach.

And it’s not looking likely this stance will change.

“I don’t think we can force people to sign up for the program,” the administration official said, per the Times article.

The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General is reviewing the administration’s decision to pull an advertising campaign in the final days of the previous ACA open enrollment period. Two House Democrats have also asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate whether the ACA’s individual mandate is being properly enforced, FireceHealthcare has reported.

State exchange leaders weigh in

Meanwhile, the leaders of the state-run health insurance exchanges are adding their voice to the rising chorus of organizations and officials calling for the Trump administration to continue funding CSR payments and take other steps to stabilize the individual market.

In a letter sent this week to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee—which will hold hearings on ACA stabilization in September—the State Health Exchange Leadership Network also calls for a federal reinsurance program, flexible use of 1332 waivers and federal investment in marketing and outreach for the exchanges.

“We look forward to additional opportunities to work with you to develop solutions to address necessary and important challenges to improve stability across all markets,” the group writes.

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