Amid Trump administration efforts to diminish Obamacare, the number of consumers who have enrolled for coverage under the exchanges in 2019 has declined slightly.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS) report open enrollment for 2019 coverage ended with about 8.5 million people enrolled in coverage under the healthcare exchanges. That compares to 8.8 million people who enrolled at the same time last year.
“This Administration has taken strong steps to promote a more competitive, stable health insurance market and these steady enrollment numbers are yet another sign that the Administration’s efforts are working,” said Administrator Seema Verma. “With the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years, it’s possible that more Americans have employer-based coverage, and don’t need exchange plans.
While the government counts it as a “stable” number, the fact is that enrollment in Obamacare coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has fallen 4 percent in a year. The program has remained under attack by Republicans even though two attempts to repeal it in Congress have failed.
Uncertainty over the future of Obamacare
Meanwhile, uncertainty over Obamacare’s future grows. Last week a federal judge declared Obamacare is unconstitutional, undoubtedly setting up an appeal process that could run into the 2020 election.
The 2019 enrollment season is also the first since Congress removed the tax penalty for people who do not purchase a healthcare policy. ACA supporters warned that removing the individual mandate would weaken the system, predicting that fewer people would sign up.
The Trump Administration prefers to pin the drop in enrollment on the possibility that more Americans are covered through their employers. It points out that so far this year employment increased by two million in states using the HealthCare.gov platform.
It estimates that 90 percent of American workers work for companies offering health benefits to at least some of its workers. It also points out that due to the expansion of the state’s Medicaid population, approximately 100,000 current exchange enrollees in Virginia will be eligible for expanded Medicaid.
“While enrollment remained steady through HealthCare.gov, many Americans don’t qualify for subsidies on HealthCare.gov and remain priced out of the insurance market. At the end of the day, lower premiums will lead to increased enrollment,” said Verma.