Anthem and Blue Crosses loom large in Obamacare talks

Mon Feb 27, 2017 6:02am EST
 
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By Caroline Humer

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Anthem Inc. (ANTM.N: Quote) and other U.S. health insurers complained to the White House for more than a year that they were losing money on people who waited to sign up for Obamacare coverage until they were sick.

They pleaded with the Obama administration to stem their losses by tightening up on the enrolment rules. When their pleas went unmet, UnitedHealth Group Inc (UNH.N: Quote), Humana Inc (HUM.N: Quote), and Aetna Inc (AET.N: Quote) pulled out of most of the government subsidized health insurance market.

But now that the new Trump administration and Republican lawmakers control the future of healthcare, the industry is getting a new hearing. And Anthem - the last national insurer playing big in the Obamacare market - is the loudest industry voice in meetings with policymakers who all have pledged to overthrow former President Barack Obama’s signature law.

President Donald Trump, who has said Obamacare coverage is too costly for customers and taxpayers, is set to meet with insurance industry executives today.

Since the election, lobbyists for Anthem and affiliated Blue Cross insurers have met “24/7’’ with Republicans leading the change effort, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to one healthcare industry lobbyist.

They are there “every time Senators and staffers are on the Hill,” the lobbyist said.

Another industry source who attended some of the meetings said lawmakers and aides were keen on hearing what the insurers needed to stay in the market.

That clout may explain Anthem Chief Executive Joseph Swedish's optimism in comments to investors earlier this month that policymakers would introduce new enrollment rules limiting when people can opt into coverage.   Continued...

 
The office building of health insurer Anthem is seen in Los Angeles, California February 5, 2015. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas