President Trump is delivering on what many had viewed as an unrealistic campaign promise: The repeal of Obamacare is right on track. In finalizing the budget, the GOP can now line out any ACA items with a fiscal impact, thanks to an executive order issued by Trump on his first day in office. By lining out the individual and employer penalty and eliminating some of the ACA taxes – voila – the ACA is gone.
The market reforms will stay, however (no pre-existing conditions, guaranteed issue coverage and dependents covered to age 26). But there is an enormous “if.” If the insurance carriers stay in the market.
Also see: “8 ways to ruin an office culture.”
One of the reasons the ACA is not working is the adverse selection issue. Insurance carriers must take all comers, and since the individual penalty for not obtaining coverage is full of loopholes, and not large enough to dissuade the young and healthy from rolling the dice, the risk pool has performed horrifically. That should be no surprise – I have been writing about it for years; a few examples here, here, here and here.
But if the individual penalty is repealed, it is going to get even worse. The healthy are going to leave and the risk pools will be left with a lot of expensive sick people who love the idea of guaranteed coverage, premiums and unlimited maximums.
The problem with QSEHRAs
The prior Congress and former President Obama didn't help matters with the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, which was signed into law in December 2016. This law allows small employers who don't offer a group health plan to create a Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement (QSEHRA). Employers can provide money to employees on a tax-free basis to pay for individual health insurance policies and to reimburse employees for certain medical expenses. This is going to make the small group pools worse and, my guess is, increase adverse selection even more.
Given the losses incurred to date and the additional selection being imposed on the healthcare system, the big question is will the health insurance carriers stay in the marketplace? If mainstream carriers refuse to offer policies – BOOM – the system implodes.
To quote the best show on Broadway, “Hamilton,” I would love “to be in the room where it happens.” This is going to be interesting to watch.
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