An estimated 10 million plus Americans enrolled this year under the Affordable Care Act, also known as the Obamacare health law. With that many people having signed for private health insurance under President Obama’s law, it’s proof that the nation is finally within reach of its goal of providing coverage for all, according to the administration. But, it may not last.
As it stands, two factors are on the verge of affecting those enrolled in coverage plans. The first factor will more than likely take out the “affordable” part of the plan, while the second threatens to gut the plan altogether.
The report from the Department of Health and Human Services with the new enrollment figures comes on the heels of dozens of insurers proposing double-digit premium hikes for next year, raising concerns about future affordability. And, the Supreme Court is weighing the legality of subsidized premiums for millions of consumers in more than 30 states. A decision is due around the end of the month and the outcome could mean a dire future for those who have finally gotten insurance after years without it.
Of the 10.2 million sign-ups, the number represents total consumers who enrolled in a plan and followed through by paying their first month’s premiums. Those statistics will fluctuate during the year as some people get hired by companies that offer coverage for their employees, and others may decide to drop their insurance.
While the enrollments exceed the target of 9.1 million set last year by HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell, it’s not considered to be much of a cushion. In fact, many believe the enrollment has been lower and slower than what most people had projected at the outset.
Still, the combination of subsidized private coverage’s sold through online insurance exchanges in every state, along with Medicaid expansion in most states, has led to historic coverage gains. According to the latest numbers, nearly 9 out of 10 adults in the U.S. have health insurance.
Employer plans remain as the mainstay for workers and their families. But, health insurance is now a federal mandate for most people, which means violators risk fines and penalties if they don’t have it. And, should the Supreme Court invalidate subsidies for individuals in states using HealthCare.gov, the federal government’s online exchange, it could directly affect nearly 6.4 million subscribers in 34 states.
In a domino effect, as healthy people exit the market, premiums would spike for the remaining customers buying individual health insurance policies. Furthermore, if the Supreme Court invalidates the subsidies, Republican-led states that have resisted “Obamacare” would bear the brunt of the coverage losses. Nationally, 8.7 million subscribers are getting an average of $272 a month, which covers most of their premiums.
Here are some of the possible negative effects that could result from an invalidation of subsidies by the Supreme Court:
— Florida would be the biggest loser, with 1.3 million residents losing nearly $390 million a month in financial assistance. The subsidies are delivered as tax credits and paid directly to insurers on behalf of consumers.
— Texas, North Carolina and Georgia would be the next three states hardest hit. Currently, Texas would have more than 830,000 people losing subsidies; the same would happen for nearly 460,000 North Carolinian’s, and more than 410,000 residents of Georgia.
— Overall, about 87 percent of the customers in states that would bear the consequences of the court ruling are receiving subsidies. In one of those states, Pennsylvania, where coverage for nearly 350,000 residents is at stake, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is moving to take over the operation of the health insurance marketplace as a bulwark against the potential loss of subsidies.
The Obama administration remains optimistic, saying it expects a victory in court, but officials go on to say, there is no backup plan if they lose the case. Meanwhile, leading congressional Republicans are promising to help consumers who lose subsidies, without specifying how. And, it’s unclear Congress could pass any quick fix that Obama would sign.
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