Health Insurers Make Case for Subsidies, but Get Little Assurance From Administration

Many insurers have already been anxiously pressuring lawmakers and the administration as deadlines loom in the coming weeks for setting next year’s rates and as they weigh leaving the federal marketplace altogether.

Congress returns next week to Washington, to immediately begin negotiating a spending bill or face a government shutdown.

The subsidies have become a sticking point in Congress, with some House Republicans steadfastly opposing how the Obama administration funded them, especially after winning a court case that is now on appeal.

White House officials said Tuesday that Mr. Trump had not made a final decision about whether the administration should withhold the subsidies from insurance companies next year. One White House official said this week that the president was leaning toward ending the subsidies, but was waiting to see how Democrats would respond when they return to Washington.

In an interview last week with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Trump raised the possibility of holding up the payments as a way of forcing Democrats to negotiate with him about the future of the law.

America’s Health Insurance Plans’s chief executive, Marilyn Tavenner, had warned late last week that discontinuing the subsidies would have far-ranging effects.

“Without funding, millions of Americans who buy their own plan will be harmed. Many plans will likely drop out of the market. Premiums will go up sharply — nearly 20 percent — across the market,” said Ms. Tavenner, who preceded Ms. Verma as the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Barack Obama, and had requested the meeting.

Unlike Mr. Trump’s meeting with major insurers in February, Tuesday’s session did not include the chief executives from some of the biggest companies, including Anthem, Aetna and UnitedHealth Group. Both Aetna and UnitedHealth Group have largely exited the market, but Anthem, which operates for-profit Blue Cross plans, is still a major player. Its chief executive has repeatedly warned that it will withdraw from some markets if the market appears unstable.

With such uncertainty four months into the year — amid the continuing efforts by Republicans to overturn Mr. Obama’s Affordable Care Act — some insurers say they are preparing two scenarios on prices that could soar to 30 percent rate increases.

While the Obama administration paid the subsidies that amounted last year to more than $7 billion, House Republicans successfully argued that payments made by the executive branch were unconstitutional. The decision has not taken effect while the case is being appealed, and the next court date is May 22.

Ms. Verma’s office would not elaborate on her meeting with the insurers, but said in a statement that “all parties came to the table committed to maintaining an active dialogue to improve care for…

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