On Friday, the Trump administration said the number of people who signed up for health insurance in federal marketplace fell to 9.2 million, a 4 percent decline from the number of people who signed up last year.
The information released by the administration does not factor in the 11 states that run their own marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, the New York Times reported.
The decline in the number of people signing for Obamacare may be connected to Republican efforts to repeal it and the ensuing uncertainty over how long a repeal may take. In January, Congress voted to pass a budget resolution instructing committees to write legislation that would dismantle much of Obamacare.
The president’s attacks on Obamacare may also factor into the decline in sign-ups. Hours after his inauguration, President Donald Trump issued an executive order waiving parts of the law that would place a “regulatory burden” on people. The order was vague, however, and it was unclear what agencies were expected to do as a result.
Although Republicans can use budget reconciliation to get rid of some Obamacare policies — like the individual mandate — they can’t get rid of all of those policies under budget reconciliation, such as requiring insurance companies to cover people with preexisting conditions. This means they can’t repeal the entire law through the typical legislative process, since Democrats would be able to block it with a filibuster.
It’s unclear how Republicans will proceed now, however. Last week, The Washington Post reported that Congressional Republicans have many doubts about repealing the law. A recording of a meeting between Republican lawmakers showed that they had some reservations about a repeal due to the political fallout of eliminating a law that provides insurance to millions of Americans.
Doctors and insurers are not looking forward to a repeal. The American Medical Association wrote a letter to congressional leaders in January to voice their concerns about what would happen under a repeal. The American Hospital Associated recently released a report warning of an “unprecedented public health crisis.” Insurers also have good reason to oppose a repeal. The loss of an individual mandate — one of the Obamacare policies Republicans oppose most — would make the pool of people insured much sicker, meaning that only high-cost enrollees would sign up for health insurance.
Americans would also feel the effects of a repeal through job losses, a report released Wednesday from the Economic Policy Institute showed. A repeal could reduce job growth by 1.2 million in 2019, and 57 percent of tax cuts related to the repeal would accrue to the top 1 percent of American income earners. These job losses would happen as the result of a reduction in low-income and middle-income Americans’ disposable income, since higher subsidies and out-of-pocket health care expenses will reduce Americans’ spending on other goods and services.