WASHINGTON — Three months after President Donald Trump declared the death of Obamacare, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney was on the House floor pointing to enrollment gains in Connecticut’s health insurance exchange as evidence that the Affordable Care Act is stable and growing.
“Well, as the famous resident from the state of Connecticut — Mark Twain — once said: rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” Courtney said.
Connecticut’s health insurance exchange, Access Health CT, enrolled 114,135 individuals in private health insurance plans during the latest open enrollment period — nearly 3,000 more than a year ago. Courtney said the increase occurred despite serious headwinds from the Trump administration, which had shortened the enrollment period and reduced advertising.
“It was done because of this amazing grassroots, organic effort by libraries, community health centers, human service agencies, and hospitals that took on the task to get the word out that the affordable care act was still alive and people would have access to affordable health plans,” he said.
Three months ago, Trump told told reporters at the White House that the Affordable Care Act had collapsed. “It’s dead. It died,” he said. “You should no longer mention it. It died. There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore.”
Courtney said Tuesday that statement has been proven false.
“Clearly what happened yesterday in Connecticut and throughout the country — despite the active efforts by the Trump administration to undercut and sabotage this law — shows that the law has a life of its own,” Courtney said.
He pointed to a report in The Hill, which found that insurers who decided to stick with ObamaCare after a tumultuous 2017 are likely to have a relatively profitable year thanks, in part, to higher-than-expected enrollment.
The insurers most likely to see gains are Centene, CareSource and Blue Cross Blue Shield, which stepped in to offer ObamaCare coverage in counties that would have otherwise been bare of an option, according to Katherine Hempstead, who directs the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s work on health insurance coverage.
“The ones that are in the market after a lot of exits are more comfortable, more stable and understand, and [they] are not as easily shaken,” Hempstead said. “You’re getting down to a more experienced, committed group of insurers … If there’s an individual market, they’re going to serve it. They’re going to figure out how to make it work.”
Courtney says lawmakers should work on improving the Affordable Care Act, suggesting they should consider his Medicare Buy-In and Health Care Stabilization Act to allow the 58 million Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 to buy into the Medicare system to provide their health care. Courtney said the bill, which he introduced last year with U.S. Reps. John Larson and Brian Higgins of New York, would lower premium costs for those individuals through a popular health program.