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Pa. Obamacare enrollment falters for second year

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Enrollment in insurance plans offered on the Affordable Care Act website dropped for the second year in a row in Pennsylvania.

Despite a 16 percent average decline in premiums in the state, the number of individuals who bought coverage through healthcare.gov fell to 369,954 in the most recent enrollment period, which ended Dec. 15, down from 396,725 a year ago - a drop of about 7 percent.

Enrollment was 426,000 in 2017.

The state's insurance commission, in a statement announcing the enrollment numbers, blamed the drop on decisions made in the White House. This year, the Trump Administration worked to extend short-term health insurance options and make it easier to join association health plans, which have been bad for ACA enrollment according to the department.

Both short-term health coverage and association health plans can bypass regulations under the act and offer consumers and businesses lower-cost products.

For example, the plans may not have to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions, according to the state insurance commissioner.

"All of these options are risky and may or will not provide comprehensive health coverage for essential health benefits compared to enrolling in an ACA plan," Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman, said in a statement. "We have already received complaints about the inadequate coverage offered by short-term, limited-duration plans. The Insurance Department will continue to work to make sure comprehensive health insurance coverage remains accessible for all Pennsylvanians.”

Altman credited the state's decrease in ACA premiums to a strong health insurance market, adding that a new insurer entered the market this year and there are more insurers this year in nearly half of Pennsylvania's counties.

The declines comes amid a ruling threatening the future of the ACA.

On Dec. 14, a U.S. District Court judge in Texas ruled the act unconstitutional following Congress' repeal of the act's individual mandate, which imposed a financial penalty on people without insurance.

Pennsylvania officials expect the ruling to be appealed and have stated that Pennsylvania's administration of the law won't be affected unless the case goes to the the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Ioannis Pashakis

Ioannis Pashakis

Ioannis Pashakis covers health care and Lancaster County. Email him at ipashakis@cpbj.com.

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