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Anthem CEO seeks changes to Obamacare replacement in Trump meeting

March 15, 2017

Indianapolis-based health insurer Anthem Inc. sought changes to the Republican replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act when its chief executive talked with President Donald Trump on Tuesday.

Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish talked with Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price about elements of the GOP plan that he’d like to see “enhanced,” such as making sure that cost-sharing subsidies continue, and that “Medicaid is appropriately funded,” the company’s finance chief, John Gallina, told investors at a conference on Wednesday.

Swedish also discussed “some of the things in the bill that we want to ensure stay in the bill, such as the elimination of the taxes,” Gallina said.

The company offers health insurance under the Blue Cross and Blue Shield brand in 14 states and is among the largest insurers to continue offering plans on the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges. Anthem has also expanded its Medicaid business, fueled by the ACA’s expansion of that program to more low-income individuals.

“We’re extremely engaged with the leaders and the American public,” Gallina said at the Barclays Global Healthcare Conference. “We feel very good, very encouraged, by the fact that the president and his team are listening and actually making changes based on feedback that the industry is providing.”

Republican lawmakers in the House have proposed a bill, called the American Health Care Act, that would wind down Obamacare’s expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor and reduce the subsidies provided to help individuals buy insurance. The act could result in 14 million people losing their health insurance next year, and about 24 million more going uninsured in a decade, compared with what would happen under the ACA, according to projections by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The CBO said most of the increase in uninsured Americans would stem from repealing the penalties associated with Obamacare's individual mandate.

Anthem has other business before the administration: the company has challenged a judge’s decision blocking its acquisition of rival Cigna Corp. after it was challenged by the Justice Department last year on antitrust grounds. An Anthem attorney involved in a dispute between Anthem and Cigna told a Delaware judge last month that company officials were hoping that new lawyers brought into the Justice Department by the Trump administration would have a different view of the deal’s effect on competition.

Gallina didn’t say whether Swedish discussed the Cigna deal with Trump, and spokeswoman Bonnie Jacobs declined to comment beyond Gallina’s remarks. The White House declined to say what was discussed in the meeting.

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