Editorials

Affordable Care Act proving hard to kill

The Seattle Times

n this February 2015 photo, Floridians check out coverage options for the Affordable Care Act.
n this February 2015 photo, Floridians check out coverage options for the Affordable Care Act. MIAMI HERALD

Despite the best efforts of the president and the Republican-controlled Congress, the Affordable Care Act is proving extremely difficult to kill.

Yes, President Trump has said several times that the federal tax law “repeals” Obamacare by getting rid of the mandate that every American have health insurance or pay a fine.

But it seems many Americans — including Floridians — don’t believe him.

As December ends, the Sunshine State has already seen a record number of people sign up for the Affordable Care Act. Florida was among the states whose sign-up period was extended until Dec. 31 due to Hurricane Irma.

At the start of thea month, in excess of 802,000 Floridians have signed up for Obamacare. That means Florida has the most enrollees out of any state that offers the federal exchange.

This despite the fact that in Florida, premiums are up, deductibles and out-of-pocket caps are higher, and provider networks are smaller for the most affordable plans.

Sign-up numbers were also pretty strong across the country, despite the fake-news message from the White House that Obamacare is dying.

Nearly 4 million people nationwide have so far enrolled on the federal exchange for health insurance plans since open registration began on Nov. 1.

More than 9 million people signed up for health insurance in the 39 states served by the federal HealthCare.gov website.

That’s down slightly from the 9.2 million people during last year’s open enrollment period.

Juxtapose those numbers with the more than 2.1 million people nationally and more than 514,000 Floridians who signed up for the ACA through the first four weeks of open enrollment last year, and what do you get?

Yes, the new tax law threatens Obamacare, but there are many efforts under way to stabilize the individual health insurance market across the country.

For example, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington, is working with Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, to restore federal dollars to subsidize insurance premiums and to revive the federal reinsurance program. The latter gives insurance companies a safety net to help them pay unusually large claims.

Another healthcare crisis was averted as the year ended. Parents had been pleading with Congress to keep their children insured via the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides health insurance to children of low-income families who earn too much for Medicaid and aren’t covered by employers.

About 9 million children could have lost their insurance. Federal money for states was to run out at the end of 2017.

Even late-night host Jimmy Kimmel urged Americans to tell their representatives to fund the program, which is popular on both sides of the political aisle.

And Congress did come up with a temporary solution for CHIP. Last week, Congress injected nearly $3 billion into the CHIP program to keep it funded through March. The money is included in a short-term spending bill to keep the federal government open.

That was the right thing to do. But Congress has yet to find the $75 billion needed to reauthorize CHIP for five more years. They must get to work on this after the holiday break.

All that is needed is enough political pressure to turn these fine proposals into law.

The original version of this editorial was first published in the Seattle Times.

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