Yesterday Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread ripped Congress for their inaction on healthcare reform while announcing that the insurance company Medica was leaving North Dakota’s iteration of the Obamacare exchanges.
“This situation is one the Department understood to be a possibility but we were hopeful that Congress would come to a resolution regarding health care reform and that we would have more answers at this point. Unfortunately, that is not the case and because of that failure, Obamacare has continued to crumble,” Godfread said in a press release from his office. “Medica’s decision further illustrates just how unstable the ACA Exchange is and will hopefully be a reminder to Congress that Obamacare is indeed in a death spiral. It is no longer sustainable and now North Dakotans are not only facing higher rates, but also fewer options.”
I had Godfread on my show today, and he stands by those words, saying the departure of Medica from the exchange is “a sign of things to come” if Congress doesn’t get healthcare reform done.
I asked him to explain why it was Medica left, and it all had to do with cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments. These are subsidies from the federal government for policies sold on the exchange. They’re intended to keep premiums down, but in Congress there are talks of letting them expire.
Medica wanted Godfread’s office to approve premium increases for 2018 on the assumption that the CSR payments would expire. Godfread, though, said he couldn’t make that assumption.
The larger point is that neither Godfread’s office nor insurance companies like Medica have any certainty at all what healthcare policy is going to look like going forward because of the chaos in Washington D.C.
“Somebody is going to be left holding the bag,” Godfread told me. “It’s our believe that shouldn’t be the consumers of North Dakota.”
I asked Godfread about the Graham-Cassidy healthcare reform bill, which seems pretty much a moot point now, and he said he was “encouraged” by it. In past interviews Godfread has told me that he prefers federal health care reform which largely puts the states in charge of policy. He said Graham-Cassidy delivered on that front saying it was “just about everything we wanted.”
Here’s audio of our interview: