12.2 million sign up for Obamacare despite its challenges
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Washington, D.C. More than 12.2 million people have signed up for coverage nationwide this year under the Obama-era health care law even with the uncertainty created by President Donald Trump’s vow to repeal and replace it.
A count by The Associated Press shows that many consumers returned to the program despite its problems. Aside from the political turmoil, those difficulties include a spike in premiums, rising deductibles and dwindling choice of insurers.
Although initial enrollment is about 4 percent lower than last year, the sizable number of sign-ups illustrates the risk Republicans face as they begin moving to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and put in its place a yet-to-be-defined conservative approach.
AP’s analysis showed that a clear majority of those enrolled — nearly 64 percent — live in states that Trump carried in November.
“If they are going to replace it, it had better be as good or better than what is there, and if it’s not I think it’s going to cost them,” said John Chipman, a drummer from Austin, Texas, who’s also covering his wife and their two children.
This year the family scaled back from a “silver” plan to “bronze” to avoid a big premium increase. But without the health law, Chipman says he and his wife would probably be turned down for health insurance because of pre-existing medical conditions.
The federal Health and Human Services Department reported recently that 9.2 million people signed up in the 39 states served by the HealthCare.gov website, which offers subsidized private health insurance to people who don’t have job-based coverage.
AP checked with the remaining 11 states, and Washington, D.C., and found an additional 3 million enrolled, for a national total of 12.2 million. A full national report from the government won’t be available for at least another month.
Under the health care law, the nation’s uninsured rate has fallen to a historic low of about 9 percent, with some 20 million people gaining coverage since its passage in 2010. In addition to the subsidized private plans available through HealthCare.gov and state marketplaces, the law offers states the option of extending Medicaid to cover more low-income adults.
Republicans say this year’s enrollment numbers do not equate to a success story for former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic legislation.
To begin with, the numbers are well short of the 13.8 million people that the Obama administration had hoped to sign up. Also, the public health insurance markets usually see high attrition as the year goes on, with about 1 in 5 customers eventually dropping out. Some customers don’t even bother to pay their first month’s premium.