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ACA enrollment surges, momentum expected to last

CASH MICHAELS | 11/19/2017, 9:19 a.m.
The enrollment period to be covered by the federal Affordable Care Act began Nov.1 and is scheduled to end Dec. ...
Earl Charles Williams Sr., 59, talks about the medication he must take for his diabetes. He was uninsured for about a year before signing up for care under the Affordable Care Act. Christian K. Lee

Special to the NNPA

The enrollment period to be covered by the federal Affordable Care Act began Nov.1 and is scheduled to end Dec. 15 for those hoping to qualify for health care coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2018.

The Trump administration, which has made no secret of its wish to “repeal and replace” President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement, has done everything it can to force the ACA to whither on the vine by cutting the enrollment period from the previous three months to just 45 days. It has also cut the $100 million Obama administration budget to both advertise the open enrollment period and slashed grant funding efforts for state and community organizations across the nation – that reach those in dire need of all that the ACA offers through education and mobilization – by an estimated 90 percent to just $10 million for the entire nation.

Yet, President Donald Trump’s efforts to suppress the ACA and discourage participation are coming up short, according to recent published reports. In fact, based on available numbers, people are enrolling at a higher, faster pace than last year at this time, and there’s every reason to believe that pace will continue the closer the deadline comes.

While no official numbers have been released by the administration yet, The Washington Post reported that, “More than 200,000 Americans chose a plan on Nov. 1, the day open enrollment began … That’s more than double the number of consumers who signed up on the first day of enrollment last year. More than 1 million people visited HealthCare.gov, the official federal website, the official said, which amounts to roughly a 33 percent increase in traffic compared with 2016.”

This doesn’t account for over a dozen states that have their own health insurance exchanges. However, several states, like California, New York and Connecticut, have said they have seen more signups over last year as well.

Enrollment is available at http://www.healthcare.gov. Those enrolling can find out if they qualify for federal tax subsidies to offset the rising cost of health insurance premiums. Those subsidies, better known as Advanced Premium Tax Subsidies, make monthly premiums more affordable for most Americans who apply.

Premiums on some health insurance plans can be subsidized as low as $87 per month to $662.00, depending on the type of plan an applicant needs and signs up for during enrollment.

To make sure Trump’s efforts to squash the ACA signup period fail, several advocacy groups across the nation have stepped forward, making sure that their constituencies are properly informed about all ACA deadlines and requirements.

Some states are stepping up to cover the cost of open enrollment education too, like California, which has added $5 million to its efforts.

The question now is that, while it’s clear that many Americans are ignoring Trump’s efforts to kill the ACA, just how many of them are young people. There is concern in the health care community that most of the new signups are people who are older and have afflictions, as opposed to young, healthy people who are needed in large numbers in order for the ACA to work properly by design.