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December 14, 2017
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editorial

What about Obamacare?


November 16, 2016

About 22 million or so people have health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare, and many others, including five people at The River Reporter, have health insurance policies created under Obamacare reforms.

President-elect Donald Trump has said he will repeal Obamacare “on day one.” It turns out he can’t actually do that right away, because the Democrats have enough seats in the Senate to block a full repeal of the entire law. But Trump theoretically could change it enough that seven million people enrolled in Obamacare could be kicked off their insurance programs almost immediately.

Those seven million people receive federal subsidies to help them pay for their healthcare. But Congress never agreed to fund the subsidies, so President Barack Obama kept the subsidies funded via the budget process. Several analysts say Trump could kill those payments on day one should he choose to do so, and the contracts the federal government has with insurance providers allows them to immediately cancel the affected policies if the subsidy payments are stopped.

Some Trump supporters have said he will not want to offend seven million people by pushing them off the healthcare rolls, and throwing the whole system into chaos, but it remains a possibility.

As it turns out, Trump’s campaign pledge to repeal Obamacare on day one has morphed a bit since the election. The Trump transition website (www.greatagain.gov) says, “A Trump Administration will work with Congress to repeal the ACA and replace it with a solution that includes Health Savings Accounts….” Those accounts would be exempt from taxes. That would be great for wealthy people who can afford to fund them, but they would be essentially meaningless for low-income people who don’t earn enough money to pay much federal taxes—or to save anything—to begin with.

It’s clear that among Republicans there has been a great appetite for the repeal of Obamacare, which the House of Representatives has voted for many times over the past six years. But there are some elements of the law that are immensely popular with the public, and Republicans will likely not want to kill. These include a prohibition against refusing to offer coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, and allowing children up to age 26 to be covered under the policies of their parents. Trump has said he likes these two aspects of the program and would try to preserve them.