Major ACA marketplace player Anthem has come out in support of the Affordable Care Act replacement bill making its way through Congress, breaking rank with the insurance industry's largest lobbying organization.
In a letter to the top Republicans of two U.S. House of Representatives committees overseeing the American Health Care Act on Thursday, Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish said the new reforms would benefit insurers and individuals by ensuring the remaining plans stay in the marketplace and provide consumers with multiple coverage options.
“The American Health Care Act addresses the challenges immediately facing the individual market and will ensure more affordable health plan choices for consumers in the short term, including through the expanded use of health savings accounts (HSAs),” Swedish said in a March 9 letter to Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Kevin Brady (R-Texas).
Anthem offers plans in 14 state ACA marketplaces, making it a major insurance marketplace participant.
The letter came one day after the industry group America's Health Insurance Plans said the bill didn't provide enough in tax credits or subsidies to ensure access to care. AHIP suggested in its own letter on Wednesday that revised premium tax credits should factor in the age and income of health plan members, and that individuals with incomes between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level should receive larger subsidies.
Those suggestions will likely face resistance from more conservative Republicans who oppose larger, more expensive premium subsidies.
AHIP also said Congress should not eliminate individual mandate penalties immediately because it could destabilize the individual insurance market in the short term because there would be no mechanism to ensure healthy people sign up for insurance.
Anthem's Swedish didn't address any of AHIP's issues in his letter, which lacked any criticism of the bill.
Last year, majors insurers Aetna and UnitedHealthcare pulled out of AHIP to lobby for themselves rather than participate in the group's efforts. Anthem is still an AHIP member, despite its disagreement over the American Health Care Act.
AHIP's spokeswoman declined to comment on Anthem's letter.
Anthem's support for the bill could bolster House Speaker Paul Ryan's efforts to swiftly move the legislation through Congress, according to Kip Piper, president of Health Results Group, a D.C.-based healthcare consulting firm, and a former CMS adviser.
"If you're trying to get support on the House floor and Senate, the Anthem letter is a big help," Piper said noting Anthem's size and brand recognition.
But Christian Auty, a principal at the law firm Much Shelist, questioned whether AHIP and Anthem were playing a game of good cop-bad cop with lawmakers. Both letters emphasized that Congress needed to stabilize the individual market, he said.
"At least with respect to concern regarding the continued viability and profitability of the individual market, AHIP and Anthem are rowing in the same direction," Auty said.