Iowa Seeks Quick Answer on Proposed Stopgap Insurance Plan

Jun 19, 2017

Iowa’s insurance commissioner is urging people to read and comment on a proposal he hopes will keep insurance carriers selling individual policies in the state in 2018.  Two carriers have already said they won’t sell such policies in Iowa next year, and a third is expected to decide soon.  Commissioner Doug Ommen says he hopes to get the federal government’s permission by the end of this month to implement his plan but stresses the government needs to agree on a longer-term health insurance policy.

“We really are running into a problem that the federal government’s just got to fix,” he said on IPR’s River to River.  “We can’t be in this circumstance going year to year wondering whether or not Iowans have coverage.  It’s just simply unacceptable.”

Ommen says it’s important to know by July 1 whether Iowa can implement this stopgap proposal, so that insurance carriers can decide whether to participate and be ready for this November’s enrollment period.

In part, Ommen wants the federal government’s permission to redirect some of the subsidies under the Affordable Care Act to encourage more young, healthy people to buy insurance.  He’s also asking Washington to help carriers with the cost of people with expensive health problems. 

Aetna and Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield said earlier this year they would not sell individual policies under the Affordable Care Act in 2018, citing high costs and uncertainty in the market.  The third carrier that sells such policies in Iowa, Medica, is expected to decide soon whether to participate next year.  Ommen says Congress has to address the uncertainty that is partly to blame for carriers dropping individual coverage under the ACA.

“It does not work in a commercial market to go year in and year out having discussions about resetting the rules,” Ommen said.  “Insurance is the business of predicting.  When we set rates and approve rates and review rates, that’s being done based on what we expect the rules to be.” 

The stopgap proposal is posted on the Iowa Insurance Division website.