As Obamacare repeal nears, enrollment rises

Lenay Ruhl//January 12, 2017

As Obamacare repeal nears, enrollment rises

Lenay Ruhl//January 12, 2017

Early Thursday morning the Senate voted 51-48 to pass a budget that marks the first step to repealing the Affordable Care Act.

The budget sets up rules so that a repeal vote can take place in the Senate with a simple majority vote. That means it won’t need 60 votes to overcome a potential filibuster by Democrats.

The House is expected to vote on the measure Friday.

If the House gives its OK, it will allow use of special legislation called a reconciliation bill to repeal significant parts of the health care law. That could happen as early as February, according to multiple news outlets.

At the same time, record numbers of people have signed up this year for health insurance coverage under the ACA marketplace, and fewer people were fined for skipping out on health insurance in 2015, according to studies released this week.

Pa. ACA marketplace enrollment at 413,000

To date, 11.5 million people are signed up for health insurance through the marketplace, which is about 286,000 more than last year, according to numbers released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In Pennsylvania, enrollment number is about 413,000.

And people are still signing up. Individuals seeking health insurance through the marketplace have until Jan. 15 to sign up for coverage that starts Feb. 1, the department said.

The marketplace has changed drastically since it opened, with less insurance companies participating and premium rates rising nationwide by about 22.5 percent for 2017.

Maybe that’s because the average fine for being uninsured more than doubled for the 2015 tax year, rising to $470, according to the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS.

In 2015, an estimated 6.5 million people paid an average of $470 for not having health insurance, which was 20 percent fewer people than in 2014, the IRS said. 

Trump promising to repeal, replace ACA

Despite the more than 20 million people set to lose health insurance coverage if the ACA is repealed, President-elect Donald Trump reiterated his promise to repeal the health care law on Wednesday when he held his first press conference, saying “It will be repeal and replace. It will be essentially simultaneously.”

He then added, “It will be various segments, you understand, but will most likely be on the same day or the same week, but probably the same day, could be the same hour.”

Now, with the Senate vote Thursday, the repeal is closer to reality.

Republican leaders have yet to present details on what will replace the ACA.

A recent survey found that while almost half of Americans favor repealing the ACA, only 20 percent favor a repeal before a replacement plan is in place, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The health care industry is skeptical about more changes to come.

Changing the rules each year – according to Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller – is what has disrupted the health care industry.

Miller, who was asked to provide Republican lawmakers with a formal recommendation for health care reform, said in a letter, “The best change you could make for this market is to stop the changes, and provide reassurance to the industry and to states that they can move forward understanding the rules of the market.”