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ACA Enrollment In Wisconsin Hits All-Time High As Repeal Efforts Continue

Federal Figures: More Than 242K Wisconsinites Have Signed Up In 2017

People enrolling in health care
Eric Gay/AP Photo

Enrollment numbers are in for the Affordable Care Act and more people signed up for the health care coverage in Wisconsin in 2017 than ever before.

Enrollment figures released Wednesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show more than 242,790 people in Wisconsin signed up for health coverage on the federal marketplace.

This is the highest number yet in the four years the federal marketplace has operated, said Jon Peacock of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.

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“The new figures absolutely show that the marketplace is more popular than ever,” Peacock said.

Nationally, more than 12 million people enrolled in coverage.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ figures for Wisconsin:

  • 239,034 people enrolled in 2016
  • 207,349 people enrolled in 2015
  • 139,815 people enrolled in 2014

The Wisconsin record comes as the Trump administration works to replace the ACA with their own plan, the American Health Care Act. Republicans such as House Speaker Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, have said Obamacare is “collapsing.”

Republicans concerned about older, sicker people signing up for coverage on the marketplace instead of generally younger, healthier consumers have characterized the Obamacare marketplace as in a “death spiral.” But most analysts, including the Congressional Budget Office, have not used this terminology, said Donna Friedsam, health policy programs director at the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Friedsam said the market is strong now, but could potentially collapse in the future if there aren’t fixes. “Certainly there are challenges with regard to the kind of premium increases we saw over the last year,” she said.

In Wisconsin, marketplace premiums went up on average of 16 percent. That’s lower than other states, which saw average increases of more than 20 percent and where consumers also had limited choices of insurance plans.

“There’s a number of counties, particularly in the southern and southeastern states, where there’s only one carrier offering health plans. That would suggest some fixes need to occur but it does not mean we are in a death spiral,” Friedsam said.

Wisconsin has a competitive marketplace with 15 insurers offering various health plans, she said. Like the rest of the country, the majority of Wisconsinites buying private coverage on the marketplace under Obamacare will receive financial help to cover premiums. More than 146,000 people are eligible for health care tax credits.

The Republican health care plan also includes tax credits, anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000. But the credits would be based on age, not income as they are now. Under Republican proposal, older people would receive higher credits but can also be charged five times as much as younger people. Critics say many older people won’t be able to afford insurance under the new replacement.

Many Republican governors have expressed concern about changes to Medicaid. The American Health Care Act would cut Medicaid payments to states. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he’s optimistic the Trump administration will make “meaningful reforms” to Medicaid.

On Wednesday, Walker’s office released a letter sent to governors from U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. In it, Price pledges to improve the Medicaid program, which both the state and federal government pay for to help the poor, elderly and disabled.

An analysis released this week by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the health plan would reduce federal deficits by $337 billion but result in 24 million people being without health insurance by 2026.