Health

Ommen: More Iowans dropping ACA coverage

Doug Ommen, insurance commissioner for the Iowa Insurance Division, speaks on a panel about affordability and access in healthcare at the Gazette's Iowa Ideas conference at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Doug Ommen, insurance commissioner for the Iowa Insurance Division, speaks on a panel about affordability and access in healthcare at the Gazette's Iowa Ideas conference at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

More Iowans are dropping individual health insurance plans than the state initially anticipated, Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen said.

The state’s insurance division said that, as of Tuesday, 46,563 Iowans had insurance policies that complied with the Affordable Care Act, with about 90 percent receiving some kind of federal subsidy.

“Overall, we expected roughly 20,000 Iowans to flee (the) ACA individual health insurance market in 2018 due to skyrocketing costs. Unfortunately, it appears even more Iowans than we anticipated have left the individual market,” Ommen said.

Last year, Ommen applied to the federal government to approve a stopgap plan for the marketplace but withdrew it in the face of hurdles to winning approval.

As part of the application, the state predicted that of the 72,000 Iowans who get coverage on the individual market, as opposed to getting it through their employer or the government, 18,000 to 22,000 would drop coverage.

Ommen says the state now estimates 80 percent of the total premiums paid in 2018 will be federal dollars.

“I continue to call on Congress to fix this federal problem,” he added.

The new figures come as Ommen sent a notice reminding Iowans who lost health insurance coverage when their carrier left the 2018 Iowa marketplace that they may be eligible for a special enrollment period, which ends March 1.

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Medica, a Minnesota-based insurer, is the only company in the Iowa marketplace. However, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the largest insurer in Iowa, announced last week it would re-enter the marketplace in 2019.

The enrollment period for 2019 will begin in the fall.

Wellmark had dropped out last year, citing financial losses and uncertainty in the marketplace.

The Trump administration and Republicans in Congress have sought to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Those efforts failed, but the administration has sought to chip away at the law. The recently approved federal tax cut included repeal of the requirement, known as the individual mandate, that Americans buy health insurance.

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