Officials and health care advocates in California want Americans to continue signing up for government health insurance subsidies made available by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) despite the Trump administration’s intentions to repeal and replace the measure.
Peter Lee, the head of the state’s health care exchange, Covered California, along with State Treasurer John Chiang and Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles Executive Director Stewart Kwoh met at a press conference in Los Angeles on Thursday, January 12 to remind residents that they have until the end of the month to register for benefits.
“We can talk about changes that may happen, but the thing we know today is that we are open for business,” said Lee on Thursday. “The benefits available through medical and the benefits through Covered California for 2017 are locked in, and now is the time for people to sign up.”
He also said that actions taken at the federal level could take months, even years to begin having a direct impact on people in their communities. As a result, new enrollees are unlikely to suddenly lose coverage even if lawmakers in Washington D.C. approve legislation that dismantles the ACA.
Earlier on Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed a budget blueprint which paves the way for future proposals aimed at terminating the Obama administration’s signature health insurance law.
“This resolution will set the stage for true legislative relief from Obamacare that Americans have long demanded while ensuring a stable transition,” Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi of Wyoming said on the Senate floor on Thursday.
Opponents of the measure say it has increased health insurance costs for many Americans and placed unnecessary burdens on businesses.
Obamacare supporters say it has made medical care available to millions of people who couldn’t afford it before. Kwoh added that alternative, privatized plans suggested by Republican lawmakers would severely reduce people’s coverage
“We know that in the history before Covered California, before Obamacare, that we had families upon families upon families whose financial trajectories would decline because of some health care incident,” said Chiang during Thursday’s press conference.
He said that those who lack coverage oftentimes struggled to recover from the financial burdens brought on by unforeseen or chronic medical concerns. According to Chiang, affordable medical insurance extended stability and peace of mind to multitudes of working class families.
Chiang went on to applaud Covered California for effectively negotiating with insurers to bring the costs of plans below what had previously been available through private health care market. Those who switch plans after shopping for insurance through Covered California saved an average of $450 a year, Lee reported.
“While there’s some confusion in Washington, there’s no confusion that the reason people want health care is that they know they need it,” Lee told reporters on Thursday. “The thing they don’t all know is that now they can afford it.”
In California, the number of the people who lack coverage has fallen faster than it has in any other state, Lee said. The rate of uninsured Californians has fallen from 17 percent to 7.4 percent since the ACA’s implementation, lower than it has ever been in history.
Speakers at Thursday’s press conference urged California’s remaining uninsured population to explore their options and reach out to representatives of Covered California. The health care exchange network offers information and support in 13 languages, including Tagalog through their website and several phone hotlines.
More than 800,000 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) in the state have registered for health care through Medi-Cal and Covered California. Nationwide, the number of uninsured AAPIs has fallen by 59 percent since the ACA’s implementation, according to Kwoh. Approximately 20 million previously uncovered Americans have enrolled in plans through Obamacare.
Despite federal efforts to repeal the law, Kwoh and other advocates of the ACA say the increasing number of people who have taken advantage of it demonstrates its value and demand.
“The future of the ACA is going to depend on the people,” said Kwoh “Yes, politicians can say what they want, but the American people will have to speak up.” (Eric Anthony Licas / AJPress)