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HHS: 2017 Obamacare signups fall short of enrollment targets, last year’s effort

Obamacare suffered its first year-over-year drop in signups and fell short of enrollment targets in 2017, the Trump administration said Wednesday, as it races to repeal and replace the law with a House GOP plan.

About 12.2 million selected coverage on the web-based exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act, compared to 12.7 million during last year’s open enrollment season, the Health and Human Services Department said.

That’s also far short of the 13.8 million that Obama administration officials pushed for to place their signature law on firmer economic footing.

The shortfall should provide ammo to Republicans who say President Obama’s plan is failing, though his allies say President Trump sabotaged the program by yanking ads for the federal HealthCare.gov portal ahead of the Jan. 31 to get covered.

HHS said about four in five customers, or 10.1 million, qualified for taxpayer-funded subsidies that make their premium bills more affordable.

Mr. Trump and Republican leaders want to replace those subsidies with refundable, age-based tax credits for people who buy insurance on their own.

Conservatives have blasted the plan as replacing one expensive entitlement with another, however, while GOP centrists worry the switchover will hurt older Americans, especially poorer ones, putting Republican leaders in a bind as they try to whip enough votes from either side.

As it stands, HHS said 9.2 million people in 39 states found 2017 coverage on HealthCare.gov, while 3 million signed up on websites run by 11 states and D.C.

Mr. Trump’s early decision to reel in up to $ 5 million in advertising for the program enraged Democrats, who said enrollment numbers that had been running ahead of last year’s effort before Inauguration Day.

The new administration said it didn’t want to spend money on a “failed” program, though Obamacare’s supporters insist the law isn’t “imploding,” as Mr. Trump and GOP leaders have suggested.

The Congressional Budget Office says the current marketplace should remain stable over the coming decade, since Obamacare’s income-based subsidies would rise with premiums, and the government would still require people to get covered or pay a penalty of at least $ 695 during tax season.

“The subsidies to purchase coverage combined with the penalties paid by uninsured people stemming from the individual mandate are anticipated to cause sufficient demand for insurance by people with low health care expenditures for the market to be stable,” the CBO said in its 28-page score of the GOP replacement plan.

Yet major insurers have pulled out of state markets, citing a sicker-than-expected customer base, and last month Humana became the first insurer to say they’re withdrawing completely in 2018.

Conservatives say the individual mandate has been a weak tool and is given too much credit by the CBO. They also say taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to throw more money at income-based subsidies that rise with premiums.

Source: www.washingtontimes.com stories: Politics

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