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Obamacare enrollment dips only slightly for 2018

Impact of GOP tax reform
Impact of GOP tax reform 04:34

Open enrollment for Affordable Care Act plans dipped slightly this year over last year, according to the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. 

Open enrollment in ACA health care plans resulted in about 8.8 million enrollees for 2018 coverage, slightly down from the 9.2 million enrollees announced this time last year for 2017 coverage, according to CMS Administrator Seema Verma. 

But the Trump administration allowed for a shorter enrollment period this time around — roughly half as long — and cut the vast majority of funding for enrollment promotion, leading many to fear enrollment would take a drastic dive. Verma said CMS' outreach was much more "cost effective" this time around, and meant spending a little more than $1 per enrollee on outreach and education, compared with nearly $11 per enrollee last year. 

Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said he was surprised the difference wasn't more drastic. 

President Trump — and many Republican lawmakers — pledged to repeal and replace the ACA. But so far, Republicans have been unable to do so, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said on NPR this week that he doesn't see repealing the law on the Senate's agenda in 2018. 

In the past, Mr. Trump has said Obamacare is dying, and has said he wants to "let Obamacare fail." But Mr. Trump and the GOP are looking for other ways to unravel former President Barack Obama's signature legislation. 

The tax plan Republicans passed eliminates the individual mandate penalty, meaning people who don't have health insurance won't face a fine, which could undermine some of the law. Medical providers, actuaries and insurers fear that without the penalties, fewer people will sign up for coverage than do already, causing problems with the individual marketplace. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that about 13 million more people will opt out of health insurance in 10 years, without the individual mandate.

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