Republicans took the first step toward repealing the Affordable Care Act this week, but health insurers — lacking details about the transition and eventual replacement — have remained tight-lipped about how the looming demise of the law could affect their involvement in the deteriorating insurance marketplaces.

Replacing the health-care law, commonly known as Obamacare, could take years, potentially destabilizing the nascent system designed to provide insurance to individuals who don’t receive it through an employer. Several large insurance companies had already announced plans to pull out of some health-care insurance exchanges created by the law because of financial losses, and health policy experts fear that repealing the law without immediately replacing it could exacerbate the exodus by adding uncertainty.

“If Congress delays enacting a replacement plan, uncertainty about what might be in that legislation would further destabilize the exchange market,” policy experts Joseph Antos and James Capretta wrote in a blog post for the American Enterprise Institute this week. “Some number of current exchange enrollees, as well as insurers, are likely to view the coming termination of the ACA as a reason to withdraw their participation.”

But other policy experts predict that Republicans will provide incentives for insurers to stay. America’s Health Insurance Plans, the trade organization for health insurers, has called on Congress to keep in place funding for programs that help people afford health insurance in the marketplaces, at least through the end of 2018.

“The problem right now is there’s a huge gulf between the rhetoric of repeal and the reality of taking apart a piece of legislation,” said Dan Mendelson, president of Avalere Health, a consulting firm. “In all likelihood, what they will need to do is create some stability for insurance companies during the interim period of time.”

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