State lawmakers, health insurers fight to keep federal subsidies

BATON ROUGE, La. - President Donald Trump's move to nix billions in subsidies to health insurers is prompting a stark warning from insurance providers. They say if lawmakers don't authorize cost-cutting measures, premiums could skyrocket.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government had been reimbursing insurance companies for aiding low-income patients with deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses. Losing those funds would force insurers to pass costs onto customers, said Louisiana Blue Cross Blue Shield spokesman John Maginnis.

"Without government funding, our only choices are to raise rates or walk away from the individual marketplace," Maginnis said in a statement to BRProud.com. "It is our members who will need to pay more for healthcare in the former of higher premiums. So, this hurts them."

Roughly 80,000 Louisianans, or 58 percent of state residents who bought health insurance on individual exchanges, would face higher premiums if subsidies expire. Jan Moller, who directs the Louisiana Budget Project, projects those affected could see rates climb up to 20 percent.

"What Congress needs to do, sooner rather than later, is stabilize this," he said.

Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) are co-sponsoring a bill that would retain the subsidies to insurers. It has support from Gov. John Bel Edwards and Sen. Bill Cassidy.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office forecasts that ending those cost-sharing reductions would raise the national deficit by $194 billion over the next 10 years.


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