Health Care

Democrats, GOP React to Anthem’s ACA Pullout

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown accused President Trump and congressional Republicans of actively sabotaging the Affordable Care Act after Anthem announced Tuesday it will exit Ohio’s individual health insurance market in 2018.

Anthem cited volatility in the individual market and “the lack of certainty of funding for cost sharing reduction subsidies.” The company said taxation on fully insured coverage and “an increasing lack of overall predictability simply does not provide a sustainable path forward to provide affordable plan choices for consumers.”

Trump, in a meeting with GOP congressional leaders, said the move would leave 20 Ohio counties with no health-care plan.

“If Congress doesn’t act to save Americans from this Democrat-inflicted catastrophe, next year it’s only going to get worse. It’s going to get a lot worse,” Trump said.

Appearing last night on MSNBC, Brown, D-Ohio, called Anthem’s move a consequence of Trump and congressional Republicans continuing to play games, from repealing the Affordable Care Act to the president’s “Hamlet-like move” on whether he’s going to follow the law and continue the health insurance subsidies.

In January the Trump administration ceased marketing efforts to encourage people to sign up for plans, and “hundreds of thousands of people” didn’t sign up that otherwise would have, Brown asserts. A Democratic president and Congress would have focused on stabilizing the insurance market to make sure premiums didn’t spike and insurance companies didn’t pull out, he said.

“They’re doing none of that because they want to sabotage this. They hate the Affordable Care Act. They can’t figure out how you repeal it so they’re sabotaging it and they’re doing it in the most insidious kind of way.”

Brown, like other members of Congress and interest groups, earlier in the day issued statements about Anthem’s decision, which tended to follow party lines.

“Without true competition and choice in the market, we will never be able to lower health care costs for families and small businesses. This is one more reason why the status quo on health care is unsustainable,” said U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. “The Affordable Care Act has failed to meet the promises that were made to Ohio families. We can and must do better than ObamaCare, but we should do it in a way that protects the most vulnerable in our society.”

Portman said premiums and deductibles have skyrocketed under ACA and the number of “viable health-care choices” has declined. In addition to the counties that won’t have coverage, a third of Ohio counties will be down to one insurer, with no competition to reduce costs. “This is a problem not just in Ohio but across the country,” he added.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, said the move would force more than 7,900 of his constituents to find new insurance plans, and as many as 10,500 in 20 counties would be left without insurance options next year.

In his statement, Ryan echoed Brown’s accusation that the administration and congressional Republicans are determined “to sabotage the Affordable Care Act at every turn” to score political points. “Republicans must abandon this destructive behavior of health-care brinksmanship, and work with Democrats to expand quality, affordable healthcare to all.”

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-6 Ohio, characterized Anthem’s decision as “just the latest example” of ObamaCare’s failure “to meet the grand promises that accompanied it.” Anthem’s withdrawal will leave Guernsey, Harrison, Jackson, Muskingum, Noble and Lawrence counties in his district without a carrier under the ACA.

“This is why Congress must act. The House recently passed the American Health Care Act, to expand choice in the market, lower costs, lower premiums, reduce taxes and the deficit, and return more healthcare decisions to patients and doctors – not bureaucrats,” he said.

Jane Timken, chairwoman of the Ohio Republican Party, said the news comes just weeks after Ohioans learned that premiums under ObamaCare spiked by 86%.

“It’s clear that ObamaCare has failed, but Democrats like Sherrod Brown continue to deny reality,” she said. “How many Ohioans must lose their coverage options before Democrats realize that repealing and replacing ObamaCare is the only way to ensure affordable health care for all?”

Said Tom Perez, Democratic National Committee chairman who is scheduled to visit Youngstown Friday, “Ohioans are just Trump’s latest victims. Trump is willing to increase premiums across the country and put the health of hardworking Americans in jeopardy – all to give more tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires.”

More than 664,000 Ohioans who previously lacked health coverage gained access to it under ObamaCare, and as many as five million people with pre-existing conditions could have been denied coverage before the law went into effect, he said.

“Democrats believe health care is a right for all,” Perez remarked. “Now, because of Donald Trump and Republicans’ efforts to sabotage health insurance markets and play games with the lives of the American people, thousands of families in up to 20 Ohio counties will lose their health insurance.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.