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EDITORIAL: Politics can't trump health care
Hard to believe, but after nearly a year of Republican dominance in Washington, low- and middle-income Americans can still purchase relatively low-cost health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
Those Americans, especially those in York County and throughout Pennsylvania, must lose no time in doing just that. Because while the program known as "Obamacare" remains in place, it continues to be assailed from all sides.
Well, not exactly all sides; predominantly from the right.
The health care law this summer withstood a pair of high-profile legislative efforts at repeal by congressional Republicans. (The “replace” portion of their “repeal and replace” mantra being revealed for what it was all along: a campaign slogan rather than a policy initiative.)
An infuriated President Donald Trump (is there any other kind?) lost no time in discontinuing federal reimbursements to insurance companies.
The president also issued an executive order allowing small businesses to collectively buy health insurance and to permit cheaper but less-comprehensive coverage than required by the Affordable Care Act (pre-existing conditions need not be covered, for example).
The administration has also moved to undermine the ACA by sabotaging the open enrollment period this year: Funding for advertising and so-called navigators to help applicants through the filing process was slashed by some 90 percent. And the sign-up period was cut in half, from three months to 45 days.
That’s right: The president is attempting to cut the legs out from under a program that has successfully brought coverage to some 20 million previously uninsured Americans — so he can claim it’s not working.
It might be laughable, if the health and economic security of millions of American families did not hang in the balance.
But the last laugh may well be on Affordable Care Act critics.
Enrollments this year have been surprisingly brisk, despite the lack of federal dollars and assistance.
And get this: Thanks to the president’s cut of federal reimbursements to insurance companies, many consumers, particularly older ones, are finding plans that cost little or even no money. That’s because insurance companies raised premiums in response to the lost reimbursements, and federal subsidies to individuals are tied to the middle of three general tiers of insurance coverage. Those greater subsidies often can cover most or all of the costs of bottom-tier coverage.
All of which is why eligible local residents who have not yet signed up for 2018 coverage need to get on the stick. The new deadline this year is Dec. 15 (yes, right in the heart of the busy holiday season; thanks again, President Trump).
Got questions? No problem. There are plenty of resources, some right in our own backyard. Log on to localhelp.healthcare.gov, for example, and enter your ZIP code for information on local assistance. The state Insurance Department also offers plenty of local information under the Key Services tab at its website, insurance.pa.gov.
And, of course, the federal healthcare.gov site remains a helpful resource, as well as the portal to enrollment.
Don’t wait. While more than 100,000 Pennsylvanians have already selected health care plans through the open exchange thus far, that’s less than a quarter of last year’s total.
Republican efforts to strip insurance from the poorest Americans have been craven. (And they’re not done trying; the Senate’s current version of the GOP tax cut plan would remove the ACA’s individual mandate, costing an estimated 13 million their health coverage.) But they have also, thankfully, thus far been unsuccessful.
Don’t let the political fog, the underhanded undermining or the shortened enrollment window discourage you. Get online. Get the facts. Get whatever assistance you need. And get covered.