Insurers seek stability as Trump delays health care decision

The Trump administration and House Republicans are asking a federal appeals court for a 90-day extension in a case that's casting a shadow of uncertainty over health insurance for millions of consumers. Premiums will nearly certainly rise 20-25 percent this year thanks to uncertainty about the CSR payments, and that will contribute to a narrative that Obamacare is imploding.

The two sides said they wanted more time because they are discussing measures that would no longer require a judicial decision, including this new healthcare legislation.In the meanwhile, insurers that are trying to set premium rates for insurance plans to be sold in 2018 are running up against deadlines and have repeatedly asked Congress to fund the subsidies during the transition.The legal case, was filed by the Republican-led House against the Obama administration to cut off the subsidy payments. About $7 billion is at stake.

The future remains uncertain for Obamacare markets after the Trump administration refused to make a decision Monday on whether to continue to fight for subsidies that bring down premium costs for millions of people.

Last week, Andy Slavitt, former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told USA TODAY that the only acceptable outcome for the Trump administration would have been to announce they are committed to paying the subsidies through 2018.

The payments, called "cost-sharing reductions", represent billions of dollars annually to the insurance industry to offset plans for low-income participants on the ACA exchanges.

Insurers that do remain would have to raise rates an average of 19 percent above the amount they otherwise would be increasing the premiums for 2018, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

These federal subsidies are different from the tax credits to help people pay their monthly premium for Obamacare marketplace plans. The Obamacare market could be stabilized easily by continuing them, but that's not what Trump wants.

There's been a cascade of bad news in the past month, including Aetna's announcement that it's withdrawing completely and early insurer requests in Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia and NY to hike rates dramatically.

President Donald Trump could still terminate the.

U.S. Capitol is seen after the House approved a bill to repeal major parts of Obamacare and replace it with a Republican healthcare plan in Washington, U.S., May 4, 2017.

The lawmakers claim Obama illegally made payments to health insurance companies without a congressional appropriation.

America's Health Insurance Plans, a leading industry lobbying group, expressed dismay over the latest delay, and the lack of a guarantee that the subsidies will continue.

Democrats say the solution is to have Congress authorize the payments. Simply cutting off the CSRs would be an overt move that would trigger a wave of media attention, with lots of cable news headlines about Trump choosing the nuclear option on health care. To try and take health care away from 24 million Americans in the middle of a Constitutional process - it was already hard.

When we feel generally healthy and expect to remain so, it makes a lot of sense to think about purchasing health insurance created to help out on the rare occasion of a large unexpected expenditure for major injury or illness.

Lower-income Obamacare customers who buy a popular tier of plans known as "silver plans" - which cover about 70 percent of health costs - also qualify for the cost-sharing reduction subsidies.

This article originally appeared on CNBC.

  • Larry Hoffman