President Obama and senior administration officials met with leaders from insurance companies participating in Affordable Care Act exchanges on Monday, underscoring the importance of their participation on the marketplace.
The president also wrote a letter to all participating insurers in which he stressed the administration’s commitment to working with them and discussed recent actions the White House has taken to improve the marketplace.
“I am writing to thank you for the part your organization plays in providing quality, affordable health insurance to millions of Americans through the Health Insurance Marketplace,” Obama wrote. “The marketplace has helped contribute to a record low uninsured rate, and marketplace enrollees report high satisfaction, improved access, and a reduced chance of falling into medical debt.”
The meeting and letter come after a slew of bad news for the president’s signature health care law, including double-digit premium hikes in 2017 and several insurers pulling out of exchanges. On Friday, the administration announced that it anticipates that all risk corridor funds collected for 2015 will be used towards the remaining 2014 balance, meaning no funds will be available for 2015 payments.
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, and Deputy Chief of Staff for Implementation Kristie Canegallo attended the meeting. Representatives from Humana, Cigna, Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, FirstCare Health Plans, Molina Healthcare, America’s Health Insurance Plans, and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association were also present.
“As health plans are preparing for open enrollment, today’s meeting was focused on how to build on the continued progress in reducing the uninsured rate and moving forward with policy solutions that will support a stable, affordable market for 2017 and beyond,” said Clare Krusing, a spokeswoman for AHIP.
The administration has met with plan officials every year before open enrollment. This year’s meeting had a heavy emphasis on attracting new enrollees.
In his letter, the president asked for insurers’ help during the fourth enrollment period, which begins in November. Marketplace enrollment has been lower than projected when the health care law passed, and experts largely agree that its future viability depends on getting more young, healthy people into the risk pool.
Obama also acknowledged that adjusting to changes made under Obamacare has not been easy. Rather than running through the law’s difficulties, he pointed towards changes suggested both by Burwell and himself to improve the way the marketplace functions. He outlined these changes in an article published in JAMA in July, and they included adding a public option to exchanges. This was originally part of the ACA, but it was removed after Republicans and moderate Democrats objected to it.
But overall, the president struck an optimistic tone about the future of exchanges, the most important parts of his signature domestic policy.
“We know that this progress has not been without challenges,” he wrote in the letter. “Most new enterprises have growing pains and opportunities for improvement. The marketplace, while strong, is no exception. Time and experience will help drive that improvement, as will constructive policy changes.”