State insurance commissioners slam impact of ACA

State insurance commissioners and GOP senators lambasted the impact of the Affordable Care Act during a recent hearing, pointing to rising premiums and reduced competition within state exchanges as a sign that the law is broken beyond repair.

In a hearing held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) roundly criticized promises made by President Barack Obama and the architects of the landmark law, and argued state marketplaces are unsustainable as a result. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) made similar arguments, pointing to his home state of Arizona where Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona recently agreed to fill a worrisome insurance gap that would have left one county without any exchange options. The majority of Arizona counties still have exchange plans with just one carrier.

“Let’s throw [the ACA] where it belongs--in the trash can--and start all over and give people an affordable healthcare system they can live with and it won’t be the situation that exists in my home state of Arizona,” McCain said.

State insurance commissioners reported similar cost and coverage concerns regarding the overall impact of the ACA. In her testimony, Mary Taylor, lieutenant governor and director of the Ohio Department of Insurance, said that the ACA is “not living up to promises made,” noting that premiums have increased 91 percent in the state since 2013, and fewer carriers are participating in the state exchange in 2017. Insurance commissioners from Iowa and Wisconsin underscored similar concerns, while advocating the use of high-risk pools, and pushing Congress to return regulatory oversight to the states.

However, testimony from Washington insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler offered a stark contrast to his colleagues. Noting that there are still concerns with rising premiums, he argued that the law has “had a profoundly positive impact on the state of Washington,” particularly in reducing the amount of uninsured individuals and high costs associated with uncompensated care. Moving forward, Kreidler said states need to do more to hold down premiums and limit growing healthcare costs tied to prescription drugs.

The hearing came just one day after legislators clashed with Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt over mounting concerns about the law and the fact that insurers are pulling out of state exchanges.