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U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, ruling on a suit brought by opponents of the Affordable Care Act, says that the law was invalidated when Congress dropped the tax penalty for not having coverage. Advocates for the law say they will appeal the decision.
Some experts, however, say that it’s still too soon to say that fewer sign-ups this year mean fewer people will have insurance coverage in 2019. The unemployment rate fell from 4.1 percent to 3.7 percent over the course of 2018, and it’s also hard to know how many people aren’t showing up on enrollment tallies because they are just sticking with the plan they have.
Though there has been a surge in sign-ups over the past week as the Dec. 15 deadline closes in, overall, enrollment is down 12 percent compared to last year.
Part of the reason so many people are eligible for plans under which they would pay $0 in premiums is because President Donald Trump eliminated key health law payments last year. This had the unintended effect of increasing financial assistance to many Americans. Meanwhile, although the enrollment numbers have been dragging this year, the federal health law site did experience a surge after former President Barack Obama encouraged people to sign up.
There’s a brewing rift in the Democratic party between progressives who campaigned on “Medicare for all” and those who want to stabilize and improve upon the health law. The hospital, insurance and pharmaceutical industry are getting ready for the upcoming battle. Meanwhile, state attorneys general, emboldened by election wins, look to shore up their defense of the health law in courts.
In the first five weeks of the enrollment period, 3.2 million Americans signed up for health insurance coverage through healthcare.gov. In the same period last year, 3.6 million enrolled. Enrollment on the federal exchanges close Dec. 15, while Covered California’s sign-up period runs through Jan. 15, 2019.
The message was delivered in a letter that 46 House freshmen to the Democratic leadership team. Their request for a bipartisan focus on legislation is one of several. Others include holding monthly meetings between top leaders and freshmen and more committee hearings held outside of Washington. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump, in a nod to the new power structure in Congress, has begun reaching out to Democrats.
Under the examples outlined by CMS Administrator Seema Verma, a state could create an entirely new subsidy program, basing aid on age, rather than income, or set income limits higher or lower than the federal requirements. But uncertainty about the validity of the guidance may mean few states will be interested in the new flexibility offered by CMS, because any state looking to implement the ideas could be sued even if the CMS approved its 1332 waiver.
Under the proposal, anyone aged 50 to 64 who buys insurance through the health-care exchanges would be eligible to buy in to Medicare. While some Democrats are eager to work on the plan, others from the left-wing of the party view it as too incremental. Elsewhere on Capitol Hill: Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) wants to work on a bipartisan fix to shore up the health law.
A slow start doesn’t necessarily mean a slow end to the six-week season, experts say. A flood of sign-ups could arrive as the deadline prods procrastinators to act. But health law backers are worried that many Americans don’t even know it’s open enrollment season. Meanwhile, the Democrats say the numbers are a result of the Trump administration’s attempts to “sabotage” the law.