When the Trump Administration announced a rule to stop cost-sharing subsidies to insurance companies, there were threats of lawsuits. The threats have now become a reality, with an insurance co-op recently filing a lawsuit against the federal government.
Cost-sharing reduction payments were set up under Obamacare to ensure that customers would be able to receive low deductibles and out of pocket costs. In return, the federal government would pay back the insurers. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the government pays about $7 billion a year to all ACA insurers for cost-sharing reduction payments.
The federal government is now being sued by Maine Community Health Options, requesting the money owed to them by law. They are seeking $5.7 million in cost-sharing reduction payments. The insurance company did not raise premiums despite the end of the subsidy payments.
The co-op claims that they cannot change its health plan part way through the year to make up for the lack of reimbursements, and they took a financial hit.
Attorney Stephen McBrady of Washington, D.C. submitted the lawsuit that stated, ” “Section 1402 requires health plans to provide cost-sharing reductions to members, and then the health plans to be reimbursed by the U.S. government under the ACA. Insurers, in turn, are guaranteed by the ACA to be reimbursed by the government for the cost-sharing reductions they pay to their insureds. The law is clear, and the government must abide by its statutory obligations. Plaintiff respectfully asks the court to compel the government to do so.”
Since the ruling to halt the payments in October of 2017, 19 attorney generals filed a challenge against the president, but a federal judge denied the request. Many co-ops have closed because of financial losses due to the lack of reimbursements.
Community Health Options is the largest individual insurance provider in Maine. If they succeed in their lawsuit, they will receive the money from the U.S. Department of Treasury’s judgment fund.
Another lawsuit filed against the U.S. is by Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative of Wisconsin. If these co-ops win, it will no doubt open the door for other insurers to receive the reimbursements owed to them by the government.
The Maine co-op, Community Health Options, have yet to receive a hearing date; it will be a lengthy battle.