ObamaCare's future may be uncertain, but Americans are still putting their faith in former President Barack Obama's health-care law. Enrollment rates for the 2018 period are up 47 percent compared to the same time last year, Bloomberg reported Wednesday, as nearly 1.5 million people have signed up for health coverage in the first 11 days of open enrollment.
Reports of increased enrollment rates came just one day after Senate Republicans announced that they would include a repeal of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate — the piece of the law that requires individuals to purchase coverage or face a fine — in their upcoming tax bill. Some Republicans have previously expressed skepticism towards including the repeal of the individual mandate as part of tax reform.
Congressional Republicans have voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act 70 times since 2011, but have been unable to pass repeal into law — even now that they control both chambers of Congress as well as the presidency. Their most recent attempts to undo Obama's signature law failed by thin margins.
An August poll by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that 52 percent of Americans held a favorable view of ObamaCare. The current enrollment period ends Dec. 15, 2017. Kelly O'Meara Morales
As of Monday, only Paulding County, Ohio, does not have at least one insurance plan in place for individuals shopping for health insurance in the Affordable Care Act marketplace for 2018, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports. That affects 334 ACA enrollees out of more than 12.2 million nationwide. The insurance plan options won't be finalized until the fall, so it's possible that at least one insurer will step in to offer coverage for Paulding County, or insurers could pull out of other counties in the U.S.
— Kaiser Family Found (@KaiserFamFound) August 21, 2017
As late as Aug. 2, 20 U.S. counties had no ObamaCare exchange coverage. Ohio became the last state without any options after Wisconsin found an insurer for Menominee County. People in counties with no exchange options aren't able to get federal subsides to help pay for their health insurance, the Kaiser Family Foundation explains. In 2017, 84 percent of marketplace enrollees, or 8.7 million people, received tax credits, while 57 percent (5.9 million people) got cost-sharing reductions. Peter Weber
A White House spokesman confirmed Wednesday that the Trump administration will make this month's payment to insurers for ObamaCare subsidies for low-income customers.
A Congressional Budget Office analysis released Tuesday estimated that if the payments were stopped, the most popular ObamaCare plans' premiums would probably go up 20 percent in 2018. President Trump has threatened to cut off the subsidies — worth about $7 billion this year — and insurers would likely hike up premiums or leave ObamaCare markets altogether if they are eliminated, Politico reports. Insurers rely on those subsidies to keep costs down for millions of lower-income ObamaCare customers, and even if the payments stop, they will still have to provide discounted rates.
Some Republicans, like Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, criticized Trump's decision to continue the payments, but Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, appreciated it, and pushed for Congress in the future to appropriate money for the program. "These two actions will help make insurance policies available at affordable policies," he said in a statement. "Congress owes struggling Americans who buy their insurance in the individual market a breakthrough in the health-care stalemate." Catherine Garcia
Ohio, insurers restore ObamaCare coverage for 19 of 20 counties, leaving 19 U.S. counties without plans
The Republican aspirations to repeal the Affordable Care Act appear to be dead for the time being, although they aren't officially defunct. On Monday, the Ohio Department of Insurance announced that five Ohio insurance companies have agreed to offer plans on the ObamaCare exchanges in 19 of 20 counties without any plans. Ohio is working to restore an insurance option for the 20th one, Paulding County, "before insurers must enter contracts with the federal government in late September," the state insurance department said. With those 19 Ohio counties back on the exchange, only 19 counties in the U.S. — in Ohio, Nevada, and Indiana — and 12,076 people have no ACA insurance options, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates.
— Cynthia Cox (@cynthiaccox) July 31, 2017
In the early hours of Friday morning, the Senate narrowly voted down the GOP's last-ditch effort to repeal the ACA. "With the threat of legislative repeal buried, insurer participation is likely to stabilize," Jonathan Chait writes at New York. "President Trump claims that ObamaCare is 'dead' and 'gone,' and has ramped up his angry threats to sabotage the exchanges. But insurers have come to a different conclusion: The president's bluster will blow over, and ObamaCare will remain." Well, never say never. But 0.1 percent of ACA exchange enrollees at risk of having no plan seems like an easier problem to solve than rewriting the entire U.S. health-care system. Peter Weber