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When we started this cooperative, we made a promise to members to always tell the truth. You may not always like what you hear, but it will be honest and forthright.

The truth is, planning for 2018 has been extremely difficult. When we started, we didn’t know whether the Affordable Care Act would be repealed, whether cost share reductions would continue to be funded or whether healthy people would make the choice to continue purchasing health insurance. We didn’t know that several more insurers would leave the market due to bad experiences before the end of 2017.

There were also some things we did know. We knew that paying for out-of-network coverage was expensive and hurting our members, especially when we were the only on-exchange individual carrier doing so. We knew the cost of healthcare and medications would continue to rise. We knew that nothing was on the horizon to fix these broken parts of our healthcare system. We knew that ideas that were being floated as “solutions” at the federal level, such as the expansion of short term plans and the sale of insurance across state lines, would pull the healthy people out of the individual insurance market.

By the time of our final rate filing, we knew a little more. We knew by then that other carriers were leaving and we were the last health insurance option for many people living in our service area. We knew that meant that we would be paying for many of the high-cost health treatments in those markets. We were told to assume that the President’s administration would stop reimbursing insurers for cost share reductions (low deductible, low cost-share silver plans that health insurers are required to offer under the Affordable Care Act), costing our cooperative millions of dollars. That’s right, millions!

We knew that the loss of cost share reduction payments would require a significant increase in premiums to make up for it. We knew that loading these increases onto our silver plan rates would bump up the monthly tax credits that 85% of our members receive to make their premiums affordable. That in turn would lower the monthly cost of health insurance for more than 24,000 of our members, giving us the best chance we had to help them keep their insurance.

We also knew the other 15% of our members would be hurting. We wrote them this letter to explain and tried to keep our bronze plan price increases as low as possible as an option for these individuals, but we also knew many of them would turn to other options, such as short-term plans, if they weren’t concerned about a health issue. After all, short term plans are not a solution for people who think they’ll need to use health care.

Is any of this the right thing to do? No, the right thing to do was not an option for us. It’s a choice only Congress can make. Let’s stop pointing fingers at the other party and work together to fix our healthcare and health insurance systems. At the very least, let’s stop making them worse. What is happening now is not good for insurance consumers and it’s not good for taxpayers.

Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative will continue to have honest dialogues with our members. To amplify these, we are launching a new blog series called “Keys and Kites.” The name honors the father of America’s cooperatives, Benjamin Franklin, and his big ideas that changed the world. The focus is helping our members understand what is going on, what decisions we are making and how our members can help save themselves money, advocate for positive change or warn about hidden costs inherent in our health system.

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