2018 enrollment clouded by uncertainty under Trump
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[November 01, 2017] By
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As Americans begin
signing up for Obamacare health insurance plans on Wednesday, experts
expect reduced participation as a bitter political debate clouds the
Republicans in Congress have repeatedly failed to repeal and replace
former President Barack Obama's healthcare law, which they have said
drives up costs for consumers and interferes with personal medical
decisions. Democrats have warned that repeal would leave millions of
Americans without health coverage.
President Donald Trump promised to kill the law in his 2016 election
campaign, and he has taken executive and administrative actions to
"The market's going to be extremely confusing. There's going to be
entire complexity of choice," said David Anderson, a health policy
researcher at Duke University.
The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, estimated
this week that 2018 enrollment would have held steady from 2017,
with 12.2 million people signing up for individual health coverage
under the Affordable Care Act had there not been administration
efforts to undercut it.
The Trump administration has cut the 2018 enrollment period in half
to six weeks from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15 for states using the federal
Healthcare.gov website. Enrollment previously ran until Jan. 31, and
many consumers often signed up in the last two weeks, according to
state officials and organizations that help people choose insurance.
Senate Republicans and Democrats are working on legislation to
stabilize Obamacare markets in the short term, but the nonpartisan
Congressional Budget Office has estimated that about 1 million fewer
people will enroll for 2018 plans due to Trump policies.
The administration has cut off billions of dollars in subsidies that
insurers use to discount out-of-pocket medical costs for low-income
Americans, slashed Obamacare advertising and cut funding to groups
that help people enroll in health insurance. Several insurers have
exited Obamacare markets due to concerns over subsidies and other
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The Department of Health and Human Services said on Monday that
premiums for the most popular Obamacare plans would rise 37 percent
in 2018. Americans eligible for Obamacare tax credits to buy
insurance may pay less for coverage, but costs would increase for
middle-class consumers who do not get subsidies.
"It's been such a flood of information. A lot of the population
thinks the Affordable Care Act has already been put under," said
Daniel Polsky, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and
executive director of the Leonard Davis Institute of Health
Economics. "The strange premium increases are going to be very
confusing for consumers."
The Trump administration is now planning changes for 2019. Last
week, it proposed a rule giving states more flexibility over the
benefits that must be covered by insurance. Under Obamacare, all
insurers have to cover a set of 10 benefits, such as maternity and
newborn care and prescription drugs.
(Reporting By Yasmeen Abutaleb; Editing by Michele Gershberg)
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