Health insurance companies offering plans on California's state exchange had to submit their proposed 2018 rates by Monday, but the state insurance commissioner added a twist to the process, allowing them to deviate from standard practice by submitting two sets of proposed rates rather than one.
Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said he gave insurers this option because of the ongoing uncertainty over whether President Trump and the Republican-led Congress will repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Jones wrote insurers a letter on April 24 saying they could submit two proposals: One would peg rates based on the assumption that Republicans leave Obamacare alone; the other would be based on the assumption that it is repealed.
"Because we don’t know what [Trump's] going to do, we have to allow health insurers to file two sets of rates that would contemplate either course," said Jones.
"We’re really past the time for the Trump administration to knock it off and stop causing this instability," he said. "We’re hopeful that they will relent and reverse course."
Molina Healthcare, which covers 683,000 Californians, said it took Jones up on his offer. Most other insurance firms participating in Covered California declined to discuss whether they had filed one or two sets of proposals with the California Department of Insurance.
California negotiates the final premium rates with insurers behind closed doors. The state says it will announce the 2018 rates in July.
Jones is not the first California official to weigh in on the debate over the future of Obamacare. Last week, Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee estimated that if Trump and the GOP eliminate cost-sharing subsidies and choose not to enforce the health law's tax penalty on uninsured Americans, premiums in California would rise by an average of 42 percent.