Independence Blue Cross commits to Affordable Care Act exchange for 2018

Despite continuing uncertainty over the fate of the Affordable Care Act, Independence Blue Cross chief executive Daniel J. Hilferty said Tuesday that the Philadelphia region’s largest health insurer will offer Affordable Care Act plans in Southeastern Pennsylvania and in New Jersey for next year.

“We just feel that we can’t not be there for 200,000-plus people in the five-county area and 100,000 people in New Jersey,” said Hilferty, who made the decision Monday, before Senate Republicans dropped their latest effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Independence has more than 300,000 ACA customers in the two states.

Big questions remain as to whether the federal government will enforce the individual mandate and continue paying insurers the subsidies (cost-sharing reductions) that reduce the amount consumers have to pay out-of-pocket deductibles, co-payments, and coinsurance.

“We will figure that out and we will come to an agreement with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with the state of New Jersey around what the appropriate rates should be, depending on the uncertainties,” Hilferty said.

In July, Independence said it had requested an average increase of 8.5 percent, with half of that increase coming from the return of a tax on insurers. That absence of cost-sharing reductions would cause average rates to increase about 13 percent, Independence said then.

Insurers faced a Wednesday deadline to tell the federal government whether they would offer plans on the federal exchange, which is scheduled to open for window shopping on Oct. 10. Open enrollment starts Nov. 1 and runs through Dec. 15.