The Iowa Senate gave final approval Tuesday to controversial legislation that would exempt certain health plans from Affordable Care Act mandates.
The legislation combines two proposals backers say would reduce health insurance costs, but critics worry could undermine consumer protections.
Senate File 2349 was approved 37-11, sending it to Gov. Kim Reynolds, whose spokeswoman said she was “eager” to sign it. The measure passed the House last week.
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A second major health-insurer has decided to quit selling individual policies in Iowa, raising fears that tens of thousands of Iowans will have no options for coverage next year.
Aetna informed Iowa regulators Thursday that it had decided to stop selling such policies, which cover people who lack access to employer-provided coverage or government plans. The move would affect 36,205 customers, the company told regulators.
Aetna’s move takes effect in January. It came three days after Iowa’s dominant health-insurer, Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield, announced that it would no longer sell individual health-insurance policies in Iowa.
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Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart can hardly believe he’s giving some consumers this advice: If you can’t find an affordable, full-fledged health insurance policy, he tells them, maybe you should consider going without one.
The Affordable Care Act started requiring most Americans to have health insurance in 2014. But the law offers an exemption for people who can’t find policies that would cost them less than about 8 percent of their household incomes.
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Tens of thousands of Iowans who buy their own health insurance are about to receive a shock in the mail.
Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield is sending letters this week telling about 30,000 customers it plans to raise their premiums by 38 percent to 43 percent next year.
Wellmark sells about three-quarters of individual policies in Iowa’s health-insurance market. The steep increases will affect people who bought relatively new plans that comply with rules of the Affordable Care Act.
Another 90,000 Wellmark customers who hold older individual insurance plans are expected to face smaller increases, which will be announced in June. The increases being proposed this week also don’t affect the hundreds of thousands of Wellmark customers who obtain coverage via their employers. Their premiums are expected to rise less, because they are in larger, more stable pools of customers.
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Unfortunately, while many 2016 presidential candidates have backed the “repeal” part of the “repeal and replace” equation, few have addressed how they would start over.
They would do well to follow the advice of The Heritage Foundation. The think tank’s soon-to-be-released policy handbook for candidates, Solutions 2016, lays out the “then what” reforms candidates should be talking about:
- Remove regulatory and policy obstacles that discourage choice and competition.
- Encourage personal ownership of health care by reforming the tax treatment of health care.
- Transform health care coverage for low-income Americans by reforming Medicaid as a true safety net and glide path out of poverty.
- Modernize Medicare program to meet the demographic, fiscal, and structural challenges that threaten to bankrupt the system.