Md. of­fi­cials push­ing ahead with Obamacare

En­roll­ment urged de­spite un­cer­tainty un­der Trump

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - By An­drea K. McDaniels am­c­daniels@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/ankwalker

Mary­land law­mak­ers and health of­fi­cials vowed Mon­day to fight plans by Pres­i­den­t­elect Don­ald Trump to dis­man­tle the Af­ford­able Care Act, and said they are mov­ing ahead with en­rolling peo­ple in health plans.

Sen. Ben Cardin, Rep. Eli­jah E. Cum­mings and Mary­land Health Sec­re­tary Van Mitchell were at the Univer­sity of Mary­land, Baltimore on Mon­day to an­nounce Col­lege En­roll­ment Week, a push to get younger peo­ple in­sured. But talk quickly turned to keep­ing ex­pan­sion of health cov­er­age to as many Amer­i­cans as pos­si­ble.

“The big ele­phant in the room ... is the whole idea of the Af­ford­able Care Act and its fu­ture,” Cum­mings said. “We re­ally don’t want to see it taken apart.”

On the cam­paign trail, Trump called Obamacare a dis­as­ter, and he promised to re­peal it and re­place it.

Since the elec­tion, he has said he would keep two of its key pro­vi­sions: al­low­ing young peo­ple to stay on their par­ents’ health plans un­til age 26, and re­quir­ing insurance com­pa­nies to con­tinue pro­vid­ing cov­er­age to peo­ple with pre-ex­ist­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions.

Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans voted re­peat­edly through­out the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama to re­peal the law. Obama has ve­toed their at­tempts.

In Jan­uary, Repub­li­cans will con­trol the White House and both cham­bers of Congress. Mary­land of­fi­cials say they plan to re­sist ma­jor changes in the law but would be open to tweaks.

Crit­ics say plans sold on public ex­changes are too ex­pen­sive, and some in­sur­ers have dropped out be­cause, they say, it’s too costly to cover peo­ple un­der the law.

Cum­mings and Rep. John Sar­banes said it won’t be easy to keep cov­er­ing pre­ex­ist­ing con­di­tions and al­low­ing young adults to stay on their par­ents cov­er­age with­out con­sid­er­ing other parts of the law.

“The pres­i­dent-elect has left an open­ing for us to have a dis­cus­sion, and hope­fully help him see that re­peal­ing this thing is a lot more com­pli­cated than he thinks,” Sar­banes said.

Mitchell pointed out that Mary­land has been ahead of the na­tion in ex­pand­ing health care cov­er­age, in­clud­ing cre­at­ing pro­grams that cov­ered all chil­dren and a bare-bones plan that cov­ered some adults. He planned to visit law­mak­ers in Wash­ing­ton to­day to urge them to con­sider dif­fer­ent strate­gies.

“Mary­land has been a leader for a long time, and that is not go­ing to change,” Mitchell said.

Open en­roll­ment through Mary­land Health Con­nec­tion, the on­line mar­ket­place on which peo­ple can buy insurance, be­gan Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 31.

Nearly 50,000 Mary­lan­ders have en­rolled so far — 8,000 in pri­vate cov­er­age and 39,000 in Med­i­caid. Another116,000 re­main pas­sively re-en­rolled, mean­ing they will Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore’s health com­mis­sioner, speaks Mon­day at a news con­fer­ence at the Univer­sity of Mary­land, Baltimore urg­ing young peo­ple to en­roll for health insurance. au­to­mat­i­cally be re-en­rolled if they do noth­ing to change their plans.

Young peo­ple are key to the ACA suc­ceed­ing be­cause the insurance pool needs a bal­ance of healthy and sick peo­ple to keep costs af­ford­able.

Many insurance com­pa­nies have said far more sick peo­ple than an­tic­i­pated signed up for plans.

Young peo­ple can be hard to reach be­cause they of­ten don’t think they can af­ford insurance or don’t think they need it. Many don’t know the var­i­ous insurance op­tions avail­able to them.

State health of­fi­cials plan en­roll­ment events at more than 20 col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties this week in hopes of bet­ter in­form­ing stu­dents about cov­er­age.

“We want to make sure they know their op­tions,” said Jonathan Kromm, act­ing ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Mary­land Health Ben­e­fit Ex­change.

BAR­BARA HAD­DOCK TAYLOR/BALTIMORE SUN

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