Policy experts say U.S. residents who need health coverage should sign up for exchange plans despite the uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) future.
Tuesday is the deadline to sign up for a plan under the ACA's current open enrollment period. The exchanges are scheduled to close at 11:59 p.m.
HHS has said it expects 13.8 million individuals will select plans through the state or federal exchanges this open enrollment period, up from 12.7 million who selected plans during the last open enrollment period. CMS said more than 11.5 million U.S. residents had signed up for plans through the federal and state-run exchanges as of Dec. 24, 2016.
According to NPR's "Shots," this open enrollment period could be the law's last, depending on whether the ACA is repealed and how Republicans seek to replace it. Lawmakers have not yet settled on a specific replacement plan, "Shots" reports.
Experts, advocates say US residents should sign up
Despite the uncertainty, experts say U.S. residents who need health plans should sign up for exchange coverage.
"They absolutely should sign up," said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown's Center on Health Insurance Reforms. Corlette said barring extenuating circumstances, exchange plans and subsidies available under the ACA to help offset premium costs for the 2017 coverage year will remain in place at least until 2018.
Elizabeth Hagan, a senior policy analyst at Families USA, said, "It's a good idea to take advantage of the opportunity to enroll now."
Meanwhile, outreach workers are continuing their efforts to help consumers enroll in exchange plans, McClatchy/Sacramento Bee reports.
For example, DSPolitical, a political technology firm, has purchased web-advertising space so that people who search online for "Obamacare" will see HealthCare.gov as the first search result. DSPolitical CEO Jim Walsh said, "We wanted to do something, whatever we could to, at least, take advantage of the fact that there's at least one day left to sign up."
Enrollment assisters have seen varying degrees of demand in recent days.
For example, enrollment counselors at the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida said they have seen a decline in people coming in for help, possibly as a result of a temporary suspension of federal enrollment outreach efforts. According to the McClatchy/Bee, misperception of an executive order President Trump issued intended to scale back the ACA also could have added to uncertainly about the law.
Karen Egozi, the foundation's CEO, said, "People are very confused. It's just a combination of everything, and people are holding back."
However, Whitman-Walker Health—a community health center in Washington, D.C.—saw a constant stream of people seeking enrollment assistance Monday and expects to see more on Tuesday. Katie Nicol, a senior manager at the center who oversees five enrollment navigators, said, "We've been busy, you know, consumer after consumer all day."
Similarly, Daniel Bouton—program director at the Community Council of Greater Dallas, which provides enrollment assistance—said his organization also has seen high demand, with consumers continuing to make appointments for enrollment help.
Justin Nisly, a spokesperson for Enroll America, said, "If anything, we've seen that some people are eager to enroll before something changes to make sure they have coverage locked in for 2017" (Carrns, "Your Money," New York Times, 1/27; Kodjak, "Shots," NPR, 1/31; Pugh, McClatchy/Sacramento Bee, 1/30; Howell, Washington Times, 1/30).
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On November 8, 2016, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in an unexpected upset to become the 45th president of the United States. Health care reform has since quickly risen to the top of the GOP's policy agenda—and heath care executives are grappling with a new sense of uncertainty.
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