Threats to repeal Obamacare may be pushing enrollment higher, officials say

Posted at 5:33 PM, Jan 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-31 10:55:14-05

CINCINNATI -- Time's running out to sign up for health care through the Affordable Care Act. And, with talk of repeal from President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans, time may soon be up on the law itself.

That fact might be pushing enrollment numbers even higher, local health officials said.

The deadline to sign up for coverage is Tuesday. In Ohio, about 5,000 more people have enrolled compared to the same time last year.

"I think they feel if they sign up this year, they'll be grandfathered in whatever happens with the repeal," said Joyce Tate, Cincinnati's assistant health commissioner.


It's not just the people signing up who worry about a repeal: A Medicaid expansion that came with the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has cut in half the rate of uninsured patients visiting Cincinnati's health centers -- saving about $5 million for the city.

"If this repeal happens without replacement, we're facing, as a city, some tough decisions on how to fund the health centers," said Robert Schlanz, a financial manager for the health department.

IN DEPTH: Will 2017 be the end for Affordable Care Act?

The Freestore Foodbank has a registration event Tuesday from 4 p.m. to midnight at its Mayerson Distribution Center. Kurt Reiber, CEO and president, said about two-thirds of the people the Freestore serves have some kind of medical issue in their family.

"The Affordable Care Act has afforded the families we serve one less thing to worry about," he said.

Behind closed doors last week, Republican lawmakers raised concerns about repealing Obamacare, including how to keep premiums affordable for middle-class families and whether they'll have a replacement plan in place soon enough.

The conversation, held at a Republican policy retreat in Philadelphia, was recorded and sent anonymously to The Washington Post, which verified the quotes with the lawmakers themselves or their offices.

The recording gives insight into Republicans' private concerns about how to repeal a signature achievement of former President Barack Obama's administration -- and one GOP lawmakers have vowed to dismantle for years.

MORE: GOP frets over Obamacare repeal

Republicans estimate a repeal of Obamacare could save nearly a half-trillion dollars. But Sen. Rob Portman, one-time budget director to former President George W. Bush, warned them the money would be needed to set up a replacement.

"This is going to be what we'll need to be able to move to that transition," he said.