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Health insurance lobby, insurer back bipartisan draft to fund subsidies

A key health insurance advocacy organization and an insurer expressed support for a bill that aims to immediately stabilize Affordable Care Act markets. State insurance regulators expressed support for some tenets of the proposed legislation.

America's Health Insurance Plans, or AHIP, lent its support to a draft bill by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., to provide cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers.

AHIP represents dozens of insurers and hospital groups, including Anthem Inc., Centene Corp., Molina Healthcare Inc. and Humana Inc.

In a statement, AHIP wrote that it supports the "goal of ensuring" that consumers receive "continuous" funding for cost-sharing reduction assistance.

"This bill will provide American consumers with a more stable insurance market, states with more flexibility to meet the needs of their citizens, and more choice and more affordable care," the company wrote in a statement.

The organization wrote that it supports and is "encouraged" by the bipartisan draft legislation.

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Molina Healthcare also wrote in a statement emailed to S&P Global Market Intelligence that it is "pleased" that bipartisan efforts are taking place.

"[We] hope that these efforts will be able to move forward," the company wrote. "We will continue working with both parties to stabilize the individual marketplace and improve access to health care for those in need."

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners weighed in on the bill Oct. 20, sending the senators a letter expressing support for several provisions in the bill and disappointment about others that were omitted.

The standard-setting body wrote that it "strongly" supports the CSR funding provision in the bill to help cover low-income consumers through 2019. The commissioners maintained they have the "necessary tools" to prevent insurers from so-called "double-dipping," a term for when companies continue to charge higher premiums despite funding from the government.

The NAIC also supported provisions of the Alexander-Murray bill that would streamline the ACA's 1332 waiver process so that states could more easily and quickly operate their own health exchanges independent of the ACA.

"States are best positioned to determine how to balance the need to promote competitive markets and protect consumers," the commissioners wrote. "The proposed changes will remove some of the current barriers to this potential for innovation."

The NAIC also wrote that it was disappointed the bill did not include reinsurance funding or a continuation of a moratorium on the health insurance tax, although it acknowledged the bill was a "compromise package."

"State regulators look forward to working with Congress on further bipartisan reforms that will stabilize the markets, increase consumer choices, reduce premiums, and address the biggest challenge: stemming health care cost growth," the NAIC wrote. "In the meantime, this bipartisan bill will bring some much-needed stability to the markets in 2018 and 2019."