Anthem, Blues insurers flex lobbying muscle

Anthem's lobbyists have had a major presence on Capitol Hill as the insurer seeks to influence Republicans' ACA replacement. (Getty/AlanEisen)

While health insurance executives are set to meet with President Donald Trump, lobbyists from one major insurer have already become regular fixtures on Capitol Hill.

Anthem and other Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers have lobbied Republicans “24/7” since the election as the party formulates its plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Reuters reports.

Aetna, UnitedHealth and Humana have already scaled back their participation on the public exchanges, leaving Anthem as the last national carrier that still maintains a major presence in that market. Anthem and the other Blues carriers also cover the vast majority of exchange enrollees, so they have the most on the line as policymakers debate the future of the individual markets, the article notes. 

On Monday, leaders from Cigna, Humana and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association will meet with Trump to discuss his healthcare plans, according to another Reuters article.

Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish said during the insurer’s recent earnings call that the company was still deciding about its degree of participation in the individual marketplaces in 2018. Much will depend, he said, on whether policymakers heed several policy changes he’s recommended.

A recent draft regulation from the Trump administration would make several tweaks to the marketplaces that hew closely to suggestions outlined by Swedish and other insurance leaders. And last week, the administration said it plans to allow transitional plans to continue through 2018—another of Swedish’s recommendations.

The administration has not, however, said yet whether it will extend subsidies for low-income individuals—something industry groups have urged in order to keep the individual markets stable. The Justice Department and the House also recently asked a federal appeals court to delay a case challenging the legality of cost-sharing reductions, which could add additional uncertainty for insurers.

Ultimately, insurers may benefit the most from political gridlock that stymies Republicans’ attempt to overhaul healthcare policy, The Wall Street Journal points out. After all, even though some companies are losing money on the ACA exchanges, the industry has profited handsomely from other aspects of the law such as Medicaid expansion.