It’s almost time to sign up for 2018 health coverage on the Affordable Care Act, “Obamacare,” marketplaces. Unfortunately, the Trump administration doesn’t want Granite Staters to know about it.
Along with broader efforts to sabotage the law and discourage Americans from signing up, the administration has drastically cut back advertising to inform consumers about the coming enrollment period.
The president has falsely claimed that the health care reform law is “dead.” These actions to undermine the law and deprive Americans of health coverage are shameful.
That’s why it’s up to each of us to alert family members and friends that enrollment begins Nov. 1 and continues through Dec. 15. People also need to know that the Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land, and those who qualify for financial assistance can purchase quality coverage. There have been many changes to the available plans, so instead of just signing up for the same plan for 2018, I encourage you to shop around and take advantage of unbiased assistance at coveringnewhampshire.org or HealthCare.gov.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, nearly 94,000 Granite Staters have gotten individual health coverage through the health care marketplace, and nearly 50,000 have gotten coverage thanks to the Medicaid expansion. Hundreds of thousands of Granite Staters with pre-existing conditions no longer face discrimination resulting in denial or sky-high premiums. The law has been a critical tool in our fight against the opioid epidemic, enabling 11,000 individuals with substance use disorders to get treatment for the first time. Patricia Tucker, a substance use disorder counselor in Northfield, told me: “I am seeing people come for help that were not able to get help in the past as they could not afford it. They are getting help and remaining abstinent. (I treat) one mother who has two children. She now cares for these children and has a full-time job. Multiply this by thousands, just in New Hampshire, and this makes such a big difference.”
All of these gains are too important to go backward. In recent months, however, efforts by the Trump administration to repeal or undermine the law have created uncertainty in the marketplaces. Perhaps most damaging, the administration has slashed the budget for ads on TV, radio and the internet by 90 percent, shutting down most efforts to inform consumers about the open-enrollment period. Without justification, the administration cut the enrollment period in half and decided to close the online marketplaces from midnight to noon on Sundays, taking away valuable weekend hours when people have free time to explore plans.
Taken together, these efforts are designed to sow confusion, depress the number of new sign-ups and further destabilize the marketplaces. However, the good news is that even many senators who originally voted against the Affordable Care Act are calling for action to stabilize the marketplaces and prevent Americans from losing coverage. I have joined in bipartisan efforts in the Senate, led by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., to restore funding for enrollment ads and outreach, and strengthen key elements of the law. Our legislation also would restore the payments that President Trump canceled earlier this month – payments that keep down the cost of health care coverage for working Americans.
I am hopeful that our bipartisan agreement will be successful and restore certainty to the health care marketplaces.
The Affordable Care Act is not “imploding,” as the president claims, but it is being actively sabotaged. And we have made too much progress to allow this to continue.
In Washington, some seem to think that ending or undermining the Affordable Care Act is just about politics. But for people across New Hampshire, access to coverage is a matter of life or death. It’s about being able to take a sick family member to a doctor and knowing that a serious illness will not leave a mountain of debt.
That’s why I encourage Granite Staters to speak up. Get the word out that the Obamacare enrollment period runs from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15.
Instead of partisan efforts to undermine the law and take health insurance away from people, let’s work together to build a health care system that leaves no Granite Stater behind.
(Jeanne Shaheen is New Hampshire’s senior U.S. senator.)