State takeover of health insurance exchange may lead to much-needed savings

With as quickly as the cost of health care seems to rise these days, any move that results in lower insurance premiums for consumers should be met with overwhelming support.

It’s why we are behind a bipartisan initiative in the state legislature for Pennsylvania to take over the online health insurance exchange for its residents that had been operated by the federal government since 2014.

Why would this save Pennsylvanians money?

For one, the commonwealth can operate the exchange for a much lower cost than the federal government can — roughly one third of the $94 million price tag this year. The plan is to use the difference to draw down extra federal dollars for a reinsurance program that reimburses certain insurers for some high-cost claims, according to the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf. The administration’s analysis shows consumers would see a 5 to 10 percent drop in premiums compared to what they’d otherwise pay.

This would also give Pennsylvania more control over how the exchange is run at a time when the federal government has cut back on the marketing for the healthcare.gov exchange and funding for navigators, meaning the commonwealth’s investment in it continues to draw diminishing returns.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has introduced a bill that would enact this — legislation that has both parties’ floor leaders in the House as co-sponsors and already has verbal support from the governor.

We urge the House to pass the bill and for the Senate to quickly follow suit, mainly so the savings can be put in place partially for 2020 and fully for 2021 because Pennsylvanians from every corner of the state need relief from skyrocketing health insurance premiums and they need it as soon as possible.

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