After months of uncertainty, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and ConnectiCare — the two insurers left on Connecticut’s health insurance exchange, Access Health CT — have committed to participating in the exchange in 2018, Gov. Dannel Malloy announced in a statement last week.

In early August, Access Health CT CEO Jim Wadleigh expressed concern that both companies were considering leaving the exchange. Wednesday’s announcement came just two days before the deadline by which the two insurers had to notify Access Health CT whether they would continue offering plans in the coming year.

“With President Trump and Republicans in Congress attempting to sabotage the American health care system, we are incredibly pleased that Anthem and ConnectiCare will be offering health insurance plans in 2018 through Access Health CT,” Malloy said. “We appreciate their commitment to the tens of thousands of Connecticut residents who buy coverage through Access Health.”

Jacob Wallace, an assistant professor at the Yale School of Public Health, stressed that there is no backup plan in the event that all insurers exit the exchange. In that scenario, people would have to purchase health insurance elsewhere and would not benefit from the subsidies guaranteed to them under the Affordable Care Act.

Although the two insurers have agreed to stay on the exchange, both will see double-digit rate hikes in 2018. The Connecticut Insurance Department approved a 31.7 percent premium increase for Anthem and a 27.7 percent increase for ConnectiCare. If rates continue to soar in coming years, a Medicare-for-all system, like the one introduced last week by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., could become a more viable alternative for some legislators, according to Fiona Scott Morton ’89, a health care economist at the Yale School of Management.

Like Malloy, Democratic Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, D-New Haven, hailed the insurers’ decisions to continue offering plans on the exchange. In the long term, though, Looney advocates a single-payer health care system.

State Rep. Dave Yaccarino, R-North Haven, also acknowledged the flaws of the current system, saying the announcement represents only a temporary success.

“Honestly, with the cost going up for everyday citizens and businesses, [the Affordable Care Act] is not sustainable in its current form,” Yaccarino said. “Like anything, there have got to be modifications. But the more competition the better.”

Looney said his chief concern is not so much the current system but the potential for sabotage by the Trump administration. In particular, he stressed the need to preserve both subsidies for low-income buyers and the individual mandate, which requires that most Americans have health insurance.

Although the insurers have committed to staying on Connecticut’s exchange for now, concerns persist regarding cost-sharing reduction subsidies, which help make health care more affordable for low-income Americans. Under the current White House administration, Wallace said, there is a possibility that the federal government cuts off reimbursements to insurers for these expenses.

“That means the only way for [insurers] to make back that money is to raise premiums,” Wallace said.

Obamacare’s health insurance marketplace launched in Connecticut in 2013.

Jacob Stern | @jdkstern13 

Jack Jensen