People are signing up for health insurance plans while they still can.
For years the backers of the Affordable Care Act have fretted over how best to stimulate insurance enrollment on the exchanges so the law could work as designed. They might have finally found a way from the unlikeliest of sources: the election of Donald Trump as president.
During the campaign, Trump and Republicans in Congress vowed to immediately “repeal and replace” the health care law known as Obamacare, calling it a failure. Yet now that dismantlement is possible and maybe even likely, people across Houston and the nation are rushing to lock in coverage for next year.
A record 100,000 Americans signed up the day after the election and one company offering plans in Houston said business continues to be “brisk.” The enrollments continued Monday at places like the Ahmed and Roshan Virani Children’s Clinic in west Houston.
“He wants to get rid of it, so that’s why I’m here,” Dishae Wimbush, a self-employed mother of three young sons, said just after 9 a.m.
Enrollment for 2017 began Nov. 1, a week before the election. It will end Jan. 31, 11 days after Trump is inaugurated. At times he has promised to completely repeal the ACA on his first day in office, although most experts say that is unlikely and probably not even possible.
Advocates and even some critics of the Affordable Care Act are urging people to go ahead and sign up for a plan for next year despite the fiery campaign rhetoric.
“It is virtually certain that people who sign up now will remain insured through the end of 2017,” said Dr. J. Mario Molina, president and CEO of California-based Molina Healthcare, a Fortune 500 company that has had a strong presence on the exchanges. His is one of three insurance carriers offering plans on the exchange in Houston and said signups have been “brisk” since Nov. 9.
On Monday he said he was sympathetic to the nervousness among those wanting policies. About 11 million people currently get their coverage through the exchange.
“They have good reason to be worried,” Molina said, noting the irony that it took the election of someone who wants to kill the law to get people to sign up for it.
After reporting that 100,000 people signed up for a plan under the ACA the day after the election, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell tweeted, “Best day yet.”
At the same time, a Facebook group called “Saving Affordable Health Insurance” bubbled up out of another group populated with self-employed writers and editors. The national invitation-only group was created by one woman on Thursday night. By Monday it had more than 1,800 members.
Part of the anxiety is being fueled by the fact no one knows what the replacement piece of repeal and replace will look like, with some wanting a quick and complete gutting while others preferring a slower, piecemeal approach.
“I’m not sure they know,” Molina said about Trump and Congress.
In recent days Trump has softened his stance on the ACA and said he favors keeping certain parts, such as allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ policies until age 26 and prohibiting insurers from denying anyone for a pre-existing condition.
The latter could prove the thorniest since he and others have also vowed to discard the individual mandate, which forces nearly all to buy health coverage. The requirement for universal coverage was baked into the law to expand the risk pool and make it possible to cover people no matter their health. It may be difficult to achieve one without the other.
Sure is gonna suck when millions of people lose their insurance, isn’t it? On the bright side, maybe Texas won’t lead the nation in the percentage of uninsured people once Obamacare has been repealed. Hey, you have to find your silver linings where you can. Political Animal has more.