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 Obama's Affordable Care Act
in his 2016 election campaign, and has taken steps to undermine a
law he has declared "dead" and "imploding". Trump's administration
cut Obamacare advertising by 90 percent and shortened the enrollment
period by half.
"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.
Obama took to social media on Wednesday, encouraging Americans who
need insurance to sign up on the federal Healthcare.gov website. He
stressed that government tax credits would keep coverage affordable
Obama asked people to get out the word, "because this country works
best when we look out for one another."
A new Trump ad, paid for by the Republican National Committee,
blamed Democrats for Obamacare's "skyrocketing" insurance premiums
and for blocking efforts to repeal the law.
Obamacare advocates have warned that sign-ups for individual
insurance coverage under the law could drop by about one million
people in 2018 compared with 2017. The nonpartisan Congressional
Budget Office estimates that four million fewer people will sign up
for Obamacare private insurance than previously forecast due to
Still, CBO expects total enrollment to reach 11 million in 2018, up
from the around 10 million who obtained and paid for coverage in
2017. Administration officials could not immediately say when 2018
enrollment data would be made public.
"FLOOD OF INFORMATION"
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 tended to sign up in the last two weeks, according to
state officials and organizations that help people choose insurance.
[to top of second column]
The administration has also cut off billions of dollars in subsidies
that insurers use to discount out-of-pocket medical costs for
low-income Americans 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 Trump actions. Those that remained raised
monthly premium prices to account for the lost government subsidies.
Senate Republicans and Democrats are working on legislation to
stabilize Obamacare markets in the short term, including restoring
the subsidies. But Trump has sought more far-reaching changes, and
urged Republicans to take up full-scale repeal again in the coming
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 middle-class consumers who
do not get subsidies will face much higher prices for these plans.
"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 and
[© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2017 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.