People still flock to Obamacare despite uncertain future | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, December 22, 2016

People still flock to Obamacare despite uncertain future

Posted By on Thu, Dec 22, 2016 at 7:09 AM

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Sign-ups for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act continue to rise even as a Republican Congress and president-elect prepare to deliver on promises to undo Obamacare.

The New York Times reports 6.4 million have signed up for insurance for next year, 400,000 more than at the same time last year. Some 20 million have gained coverage under the law, including those low-income people covered by the Medicaid expansion in states like Arkansas. The rise in signups is remarkable, officials say, given both the uncertainty and some premium cost increases. The article observes:

But the 6.4 million signing up on HealthCare.gov through Monday could undermine the argument that the law is in free fall. The five states with the most people enrolling for coverage on the site through Monday were Florida, with 1.3 million plan selections, Texas (776,000), North Carolina (369,000), Georgia (352,000) and Pennsylvania (291,000). Mr. Trump carried all those states.

Some Arkansas-related facts (a state where the Republican congressional delegation is unified in calling for the repeal of Obamacare), courtesy of the federal Department of Health and Human Services:

* The  uninsured rate in Arkansas has fallen by 46 percent.

* Some 234,000 Arkansans gained coverage. Hundreds of thousands more benefitted from other elements of the law.

* 1.3 million are covered through employee-sponsored plans. The federal law gave those workers an end to annual and lifetime limits on coverage. Young adults are covered on such plans until 26, which helped an estimated 21,000 stay insured. The law mandated free preventive care — flu shots, cancer screenings, contraception and mammograms. This benefits 1.2 million people.

* Premium cost increases have slowed. On average, private insurance costs grew 3.8 percent annually from 2010-15, compared with 6.4 percent a year the previous decade.  Arkansans have received $15 million in premium refunds because of the rule limiting insurance companies to 20 percent of each premium dollar for their costs.

* 920,194 people in Arkansas are covered by Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program.

* An estimated 122,000 have health insurance because of the Medicaid expansion in Arkansas (known as the private option or, under the current governor, Arkansas Works. It's still Obamacare.)

*   There's more care for people with mental illness or substance abuse disorders.

* Health institutions have saved millions previously lost to uncompensated care thanks to $1 billion in federal support. That money has also helped the state cut taxes.

* 63,357 people have coverage through the insurance marketplace, with its subsidies on premiums helping 56,843 Arkansans with average credits of $306 a month. There is no longer discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions. Women no longer pay more than men for coverage.

* 606,000 Arkansans are covered by Medicare,, which now has a stronger trust fund and has provided lower cost for prescription drugs. Closing the so-called doughnut hole has saved more than 40,000 Arkansans $36 million in annual drug costs. Seniors also benefit from free preventive services.

There's more. But it's ample reason to write Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton and Reps. French Hill, Bruce Westerman, Rick Crawford and Steve Womack and thank them for vowing to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Right?

What could go wrong?

And after they do that, they can dismantle Medicare, too.

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