By Stephen Koff
CareSource has agreed to step in and offer health insurance in Paulding County, Ohio, the last county in the country that faced the prospect of lacking a single Obamacare carrier in 2018.
This should end the hand-wringing of Affordable Care Act supporters and critics alike, most of whom said they wanted every county covered -- but some of whom said insurer reluctance was a symptom of Obamacare's failures.
While Ohioans still could face steep premium hikes in 2018, a majority who buy insurance on the ACA exchange get federal subsidies to cover all or some of the payments. The size of the hikes will depend partly on whether President Donald Trump orders the government to stop making certain payments insurers expected under the ACA.
Paulding county is in northwestern Ohio, on the Indiana border. Existing carriers had decided to pull out of it and other county markets in 2018 because of financial concerns, including uncertainty about the ACA under Trump and Congress.
The president and congressional Republicans have tried to repeal the ACA or replace it with measures that would cover far fewer people. Those efforts have failed so far, but the president has administrative tools he could use to try to weaken the law. Trump and other Republicans say Obamacare, with its mandate to buy fairly full health insurance for Americans who don't get coverage through their jobs, robbed consumers of freedom to buy the kinds of policies they wanted or skip coverage altogether.
"The Marketplace provides vital health care coverage to more than 10.3 million Americans and we want to be a resource for consumers left without options," said CareSource president and CEO Pamela Morris. "Our decision to offer coverage in the bare counties speaks to our mission and commitment to the Marketplace and serving those who are in need of health care coverage."
The announcement today follows July's news that the Ohio Department of Insurance worked with CareSource and a handful of other carriers to step in in 19 other counties where other insurers had decided to exit. With CareSource's decision to offer ACA policies in Paulding County, every Ohio county will be covered.
"Working through this challenge has been a priority for the Department and our staff in recent weeks and I'm proud of the collaborative approach insurers have been willing to take so that we could come together and solve this problem," Jill Froment, director of the Ohio Department of Insurance, said in a statement. "There is a lot of uncertainty facing consumers when it comes to health insurance and these announcements will provide important relief."
Other insurers have stepped in to fill similar needs in Indiana and Nevada. As of yesterday, a Kaiser Family Foundation national map showing counties at risk of having no carrier in the ACA marketplace had a single county -- Paulding -- in that category. With today's announcement, Kaiser has already updated its map.
(c)2017 Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland