The open enrollment period for 2016-2017 has drawn to a close, leaving the vast majority of Americans covered, but it’s anyone’s guess where the nation will be in terms of health insurance this time next year. With a new president in office, it’s natural to expect some changes, but President Trump has vowed to dismantle and do away with the current system of health care, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more commonly known as Obamacare.
For the second time in less than a decade, Americans are staring down the barrel of healthcare reform, and we’re not talking minor changes, but a major overhaul that has the potential to affect all Americans and possibly leave millions uninsured (and uninsurable). It wasn’t that long ago that preexisting conditions (including being born female) were enough to allow insurance providers to deny coverage or charge higher premiums.
So, what’s going on with Obamacare now? While we can’t gaze into a crystal ball and predict what the future holds, we can say how Obamacare is holding up since the new president took office. Here’s the latest on Obamacare.
To Repeal or Not to Repeal
As of yet, Obamacare has not been repealed. Despite the fact that President Trump vowed to make a repeal his first order of business after taking office, Obamacare remains in place. This probably has something to do with the fact that a viable replacement is not yet ready.
When a law is repealed, it is done so with a replacement (re-enactment) or without one. Pretty much everyone seems to agree that repealing Obamacare without replacing it is a bad idea since it would throw the entire health insurance industry into chaos, leaving insurance providers, healthcare providers, and patients with no clear understanding of how to proceed.
President Trump already issued an executive order directing applicable departments and agencies to “exercise all authority and discretion available to them to waive, defer, grant exemptions from or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement” of the ACA that creates a burden for states, insurers, medical professionals/facilities, patients, etc. What does this mean?
The intent is clear: to weaken Obamacare. Less clear is the practical application. Does this executive order mean that any patient who decides not to purchase insurance can simply claim that the individual mandate to carry insurance is too great of a burden?
Nobody is really sure, but the Congress, which would ultimately be responsible for repealing and replacing Obamacare, seems to favor a strategy of repealing and replacing the ACA simultaneously, or as close as possible, so as to avoid chaos and ensure that those who want coverage are able to maintain it at affordable rates.
WHAT SHOULD AMERICANS DO?
At this point, a wait and see policy is probably best. While the executive order could pave the way for individuals to withdraw without penalty, there’s no guarantee that this will be the case. According to the existing law, anyone withdrawing from health insurance coverage under the individual mandate must still apply for exemption or risk penalty. Those who decide to seek coverage elsewhere, or those who have already dropped their ACA or marketplace plan, will still have options for health insurance but these plans will not meet the definition of ‘Minimum Essential Coverage‘ under the ACA.
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