As the fate of the Affordable Care Act teeters in Congress, the Covered California exchange is holding off on releasing insurance rates for participating health plans, officials announced Tuesday.
The rates are usually made public in July, but the continued debate on federal health care has pushed that announcement to Aug. 1. In an unprecedented change, the Department of Managed Health Care and the California Department of Insurance are now reviewing two sets of rates.
"We’ve heard from Washington D.C. that they’re going to repeal and replace, but we don’t know what that means," said Nancy Kincaid, spokesperson for California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. "So the commissioner allowed insurance companies to submit two sets of rates - one set based on what we know we have with the existing ACA, and one based on what we might have post Washington D.C. action on the ACA."
“This decision is based on the ongoing federal uncertainty around the repeal and replacement attempts of the Affordable Care Act and the dramatic potential impacts such uncertainty has on the rates and on California consumers,” Covered California said in a statement.
Eleven insurance companies participate in Covered California, the health care marketplace created under the ACA. These companies offer federally subsidized health coverage to roughly 1.4 million low-income Californians.
The most recent Republican health care bill, which failed in the Senate this week, proposed restructuring federal subsidies for public exchange enrollees based on age and income. Californians with a Covered California silver plan, for example, would be paying 74 percent more towards their premiums in 2020 than they do under current law, according to a recent projection from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit policy analysis group.
Covered California premiums jumped by about 13 percent between 2016 and 2017, following two years of smaller increases.
California insurance plans such as Molina Health Care fear the impact on consumers will be much more drastic if the ACA is repealed.
“Eliminating the cost-sharing reductions in the individual market will cause insurers to substantially raise premiums to account for the higher costs and uncertainty,” the company said in an e-mailed statement. “These price increases will make insurance unaffordable for the millions of Americans.”