The insurance giant breaks from the pack and says the Senate Republican healthcare reform bill would improve the insurance market.
Perhaps concluding that the individual healthcare insurance market couldn't possibly get any worse for insurers, Anthem surprised many in the industry by endorsing the Senate Republican bill for reforming the Affordable Care Act.
The consensus in the industry is still negative, however.
Oddly, Anthem makes no mention of how the Senate Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) eliminates the key feature of Obamacare that, in theory at least, has been the biggest draw for insurers: the mandate for every American to buy their products.
Anthem issued a statement saying company leaders believe the BCRA "will markedly improve the stability of the individual market and moderate premium increases."
The reform will do that by earmarking billions of dollars to help stabilize the markets, eliminating a tax on health insurance plans, and aligning premium subsidies with premium costs, the company said.
The Anthem statement acknowledged "the challenges the current bill proposes to the Medicaid program, knowing how important it is to achieve the necessary funding and access to healthcare services and supports are for the individuals and families who rely on them to live healthy meaningful lives in their communities."
Despite its size and influence in the market, Anthem has struggled to find profits under the ACA, recently announcing plans to withdraw from the exchanges next year in Indiana, Wisconsin and Ohio.
Anthem's endorsement of the BCRA runs counter to what most in Washington and in the insurance industry are saying about the potential effects of the bill on the individual insurance market. An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation suggests that the Senate bill would result in significant increases to the cost of non-group coverage and medical care.
The foundation estimated the average premiums that current marketplace enrollees would pay for a benchmark silver plan in 2020 under current law and under the plan proposed in the Senate Republican bill.
"Overall, marketplace enrollees would pay on average 74% more towards the premium for a benchmark silver plan in 2020 under the BCRA than under current law. Younger enrollees would see modest increases on average (10% for those under age 18; 17% for those ages 18 to 34), while average premiums would more than double for enrollees ages 55 to 64," the report says.
"These results vary significantly by income as well. Marketplace enrollees with incomes below 200% of poverty would see an average increase in their premium costs of 177%, while higher income enrollees would see an increase of 57%."
Gregory A. Freeman is a contributing writer for HealthLeaders.