Increase in healthcare signups on first day of annual enrollment. Maine votes to expand federal Medicaid scheme for low-income Americans
Millions of Americans remain committed to Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare legislation despite the Trump administration’s attempts to overturn it.
In a series of developments that fly in the face of Republicans’ repeated avowals to destroy the Affordable Care Act (ACA), widely known as Obamacare, record numbers of people signed up this week for government-backed health insurance plans, and voters in conservative-controlled Maine elected to expand the government’s healthcare scheme for low-income Americans.
The news comes after the Trump administration cut federal funding for ACA outreach and marketing, drawing concerns that sign-up numbers would plummet.
Across the country, more than twice as many people signed up for individual healthcare plans provided through the government-backed insurance exchanges created by the ACA on the first day of annual enrollment than signed up at the same time last year.
Last Wednesday, the first day of open enrollment for individual health plans, more than 200,000 people selected an ‘Obamacare plan’ to cover their healthcare in 2018. That is double the number that signed up on the first day of enrollment for 2017 plans, and also more than in previous years, according to a report in The Hill.
The surge, and a rise in online visitors to the government’s healthcare website, came despite cuts in grants under the Trump administration to outside groups that help people navigate the insurance system and sign up for the ACA.
At the same time, a poll this week showed only 26% of Americans believe Trump is handling the issue of healthcare effectively – down from the 44% in January who at that time believed that the new administration would manage it well.
Trump still enjoys majority support among Republican voters on healthcare, but their support has dropped from 87% in January to 59% this week, according to the Washington Post and ABC.
Approval of the job the Trump administration is doing overall has fallen to 37%, according to the poll, the lowest level for a first-term president in 70 years of such surveys.
Despite these signals from the public – and Republicans in Congress repeatedly failing in attempts to repeal the ACA – the administration is determined to do what it can to dismantle vital provisions.
The vice-president, Mike Pence, and the House speaker, Paul Ryan, are floating controversial tax reform legislation as an alternative route for ending the individual health insurance mandate, a rule that was a central principle of the ACA, requiring all Americans to have health insurance or pay a fine, and which Pence calls a tax.
“I know it’s under active consideration and you know the president’s determination to repeal Obamacare. We came close. We’re determined to come back to that issue next year. But the president and I are both interested in seeing the House and Senate consider the possibility of repealing the individual mandate tax as a part of this tax reform bill,” Pence told Fox News on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, in local elections this week, voters in Maine answering a referendum question overwhelmingly decided to expand the federal Medicaid scheme for low-income Americans in order to give tens of thousands more people in the state access to health insurance.
Many states with Republican governors or legislatures accepted extra Medicaid money provided under the ACA to help states subsidize insurance for the poor, but some conservative states refused it on principle, including Maine, where it was blocked by the Republican governor Paul LePage.
Frederick Isasi, executive director of Families USA, a not-for-profit healthcare advocacy group, said: “Maine has proven that ballot initiatives are a powerful way for Americans to stand up for their families, cut through political gamesmanship and spin, and send a clear message to lawmakers that the people want affordable, quality healthcare.”
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