- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 17, 2017

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread said Tuesday that he will deny any additional rate increases to individual health insurance premiums next year under the Obama health care law.

Godfread said last week that President Donald Trump’s decision to halt payments to insurers under the law could potentially raise health insurance costs as much as an additional 10 percent for up to 42,000 North Dakotans. He said Tuesday he won’t allow that.

In a letter to Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, Medica and Sanford Health Plan, Godfread said “this is an issue that is between insurance carriers and the federal government” and that “it is my duty to look out for those consumers who have had to absorb multiple rounds of increases to their health insurance premiums without receiving any assistance from the federal government.”

Godfread said in a statement that 2018 health insurance rates previously approved by his department will increase anywhere from roughly 8-22 percent for the 42,000 North Dakotans enrolled in Affordable Care Act-compliant individual plans.

Medica said Godfread’s move cements its earlier decision to withdraw its individual health plans from the federal marketplace in North Dakota due to uncertainty over the cost-sharing reductions.

“We will remain in the North Dakota market but we will not be participating on the federal marketplace in North Dakota,” Medica vice president Geoff Bartsh said.

Sanford Health Plan President Kirk Zimmer said in a statement that the carrier is still weighing all of its options in deciding whether to continue participating in the federal marketplace in North Dakota.

“We have to balance our decision on what’s best for all our members,” Zimmer said. “There are a lot of ideas being floated that may impact how we move ahead.”

Blue Cross Blue Shield said it will stay in the federal marketplace, and absorb the loss of the federal payments. Spokeswoman Andrea Dinneen said the company understands that “additional (rate) increases at this point would cause disruption for consumers in North Dakota.”

Blue Cross also encouraged Congress to work toward a bipartisan solution to fund the payments “and ensure market stability.”

Key senators reached a deal Tuesday on resuming the payments that Trump has blocked. The president spoke favorably about the bipartisan compromise but it’s still likely to face opposition in Congress.


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