White House action raises insurance rates in Oregon

Trump’s action would halt $49 million worth of payments to Oregon insurance firms.

By Andrew Selsky / Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. — Oregon’s business regulator Friday ordered health insurance companies linked to the Affordable Care Act to increase rates to some of their customers in 2018 because President Donald Trump halted payments to insurers under the Obama-era health care law, a move that several states including Oregon said they’d fight in court.

Trump’s action would halt $49 million worth of cost-sharing reduction payments by the federal government to Oregon insurance companies, according to Oregon’s Department of Consumer and Business Services.

Jean Straight, acting director of the agency, said Friday that while Oregonians’ 2017 plan rates and benefits won’t change through the end of this year, some will see increases in 2018 to compensate for Trump’s action.

“These rate increases are necessary to ensure the stability of the health insurance market,” Straight said.

The agency said in a statement: “In order to ensure carriers can continue to offer coverage in Oregon, DCBS is ordering health insurance companies offering plans on HealthCare.gov to increase their already approved silver metal tier 2018 plan rates by 7.1 percent.”

There are about 117,000 enrollees in silver plans, though not every one of those plans will increase, said agency spokesman Jake Sunderland. Silver metal tier plans are the only plans that have cost-sharing reductions. The CSRs, as they’re known, are offered to middle-income consumers and have lower maximum out-of-pocket limits, deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance. About 50,000 Oregonians were enrolled in cost-sharing reduction plans. It was not immediately clear how many Oregonians would be subjected to the rate increase, or what the average dollar amounts would be.

Those under the bronze and gold plans will remain unaffected, the agency said.

Health insurance companies that sell plans on HealthCare.gov — the website created as part of former President Obama’s Affordable Care Act where people can buy insurance plans and get financial assistance — can still sell plans off of HealthCare.gov. If the carrier participates on HealthCare.gov, they will have to increase silver plan rates, Sunderland said.

Rosenblum blasted Trump’s action as “a rash, ill-conceived decision that will have a devastating impact on many vulnerable Oregonians.”

“These ACA subsidies are a vital funding source that keep insurance premiums manageable,” Rosenblum said in a statement.

“Oregon, along with 15 other states, is joining California’s lawsuit against the President — defending ACA payments that help many families access affordable health insurance,” she said.

The White House says the government cannot legally continue to pay the cost-sharing subsidies because they lack a formal authorization by Congress. Trump said Friday the subsidies are “almost a payoff” to insurance companies to lift their stock prices instead of helping low-income people afford premiums.

But several attorneys general say Trump is not following federal law in ending a legally mandated system that already is operating.

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