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White House Pays Off Insurance Companies With Taxpayer Money To Support Obamacare

(Robert Pear) The White House is offering more money to insurance companies as an incentive for them to let people keep insurance policies that were to have been canceled next year.

The administration floated several proposals on Monday to “help offset the loss in premium revenue and profit” that it said might occur if insurers went along with President Obama’s request to reinstate canceled policies.
Millions of people have received notices saying their policies were being canceled because they did not comply with minimum coverage requirements of the new health care law.

In a notice published Monday in the Federal Register, the administration acknowledged that insurers had a valid concern: They may be stuck with sicker, higher-cost customers in the new insurance exchanges because healthier Americans will stay on their existing health plans for another year.

Facing a political furor over the cancellation of insurance policies, Mr. Obama announced on Nov. 14 that he would temporarily waive some requirements of the new federal law and allow insurers to renew “current policies for current enrollees” for a year.

Insurers criticized the president’s move, saying it could upset the assumptions on which they had set premiums for new insurance products providing coverage in 2014.

Many people with serious illnesses were excluded from the old policies. As a result, the administration said, people on those policies may be healthier than average.

If they do not enroll in the new health plans, the administration said, the average cost of claims for people in those plans may be higher than expected, and this increase in costs could lead to unexpected financial losses for insurance companies.

To reduce this risk, the administration said it could provide financial assistance to certain insurers through a program under which the government will share in their losses and profits for the next three years.
Any such assistance would come on top of federal subsidies that the government plans to pay insurers to make coverage more affordable for low- and middle-income people under the new law. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that those subsidy payments will exceed $1 trillion over the next 10 years.

The administration said it could not immediately determine the cost of the assistance for insurers because it did not know how many people would stay in existing plans or how many would decide to enroll in new policies that provide additional benefits and consumer protections, as required by the 2010 health law.