Rep. Bizzarro lauds passage of state insurance exchange bill

Would allow commonwealth to stabilize rates at no extra cost to state

– Pennsylvania is one step closer to meaningfully controlling insurance premiums for residents insured through Affordable Care Act-based health insurance plans after the House overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan bill to permit the commonwealth to create its own insurance exchange and reinsurance program, state Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie, announced today.

The federal government currently runs the insurance exchange – the means by which insurance plan choices, rates comparisons and other key information is delivered to consumers.

“Today’s vote is a great example of what we can accomplish on both sides of the aisle when we work together,” said Bizzarro, a member of the House Insurance Committee and one of the bill’s co-sponsors. “Pennsylvania’s more than 400,000 residents who rely on private insurance plans under the ACA are facing the prospect of escalating premiums. This bill would allow us to stabilize and hopefully reduce those premiums by taking the private ACA market out of federal control and placing it in the hands of the state, where it belongs.

“The best part of the plan is that it would not impose any new costs on the state because it is based on what we’re already spending. The federal government – which currently runs the exchange – is expected to fund 75% of reinsurance program costs, while the remaining 25% would be paid for by the savings generated by converting administration of the exchange from the federal government to the state. We would bring more stable, more affordable insurance to the state’s ACA insurance consumers without burdening taxpayers. It’s a win-win for everyone."

Bizzarro noted that a key component of the plan – the creation of a state reinsurance program – would allow insurers to offer their products at a cheaper price by limiting their exposure to high, unpredictable medical expenses. The program would cover especially high-cost procedures and patients separately when they exceed a certain threshold.

“States that have converted to state-run exchanges with reinsurance programs have already seen lower premiums,” Bizzarro said. “There’s good reason for optimism that Pennsylvania consumers would experience the same stabilization or decrease in rates. I’m extremely encouraged that we may be on our way to bringing these consumers the affordable health care they deserve."

The bill – which passed 198-1 – now heads to the state Senate for consideration and a vote.