Obama, al­lies dis­miss re­peal of Oba­macare

Urge to en­roll now for ’17

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and its al­lies are brushing aside talk of Oba­macare re­peal as they bar­rel ahead with a pivotal 2017 en­roll­ment sea­son, urg­ing cus­tomers to sign up by Thurs­day to be cov­ered by Jan. 1 and avoid penal­ties in the new year, even as Repub­li­cans promise re­lief from the law’s man­dates in con­cert with Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump.

The Dis­trict of Columbia’s Oba­macare web­site greets cus­tomers with a pop-up mes­sage that says the re­cent pres­i­den­tial elec­tion “doesn’t im­pact your abil­ity to en­roll in af­ford­able qual­ity health in­sur­ance for 2017.”

Pres­i­dent Obama used his lat­est weekly ad­dress to sell his sig­na­ture health law to fence-sit­ters, say­ing that Repub­li­cans in­tent on re­peal­ing his law should im­prove the ex­ist­ing sys­tem in­stead and that “one of the best ways to do that is make sure that you’re in it.”

En­roll Amer­ica, a White House ally that works to en­roll cus­tomers in Oba­macare’s web-based ex­changes, said the same num­bers of peo­ple — if not more — are seek­ing ap­point­ments with in-per­son as­sis­ters as last year.

“Right now, noth­ing has changed,” said Jen­nifer Sul­li­van, vice pres­i­dent for op­er­a­tions, not­ing that they tell wary con­sumers: “Your con­cerns are valid and there is a lot of un­cer­tainty right now, but one thing we can guar­an­tee is you can en­roll in health cov­er­age.”

GOP lead­ers have said that writ­ing bud­get in­struc­tions to fast-track leg­is­la­tion that guts Oba­macare will be their first piece of busi­ness in Jan­uary, af­ter a Novem­ber elec­tion in which vot­ers sud­denly handed Repub­li­cans the keys to health re­form.

Too many Amer­i­cans, they say, are suf­fer­ing from ris­ing pre­mi­ums and dwin­dling choices un­der the law and need quick re­lief.

“When Congress re­con­venes, we will be­gin re­pair­ing the dam­age by pass­ing the leg­isla­tive tools that are nec­es­sary to re­peal Oba­macare. We will de­liver on our promise to the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” the of­fice of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Wed­nes­day in a blog post, not­ing there will be a “sta­ble tran­si­tion pe­riod” to new re­forms.

Mr. Obama is us­ing his fi­nal weeks in of­fice to make the GOP’s task more dif­fi­cult, urg­ing mil­lions to log onto web-based in­sur­ance ex­changes and place his sig­na­ture law on firmer foot­ing in 2017.

He re­cently joined comic ac­tor Bill Mur­ray in a web video to pro­mote the law — par­tic­u­larly to young, healthy en­rollees who are crit­i­cal to mak­ing Oba­macare’s eco­nomics work.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion is high­light­ing the law’s main prod — the “in­di­vid­ual man­date” tax penalty for re­main­ing unin­sured — to boost its num­bers ahead of the Dec. 15. dead­line.

Repub­li­cans haven’t de­tailed their plan to bridge mil­lions of newly cov­ered Amer­i­cans over to a new pro­gram, or fi­nal­ized plans for keep­ing pop­u­lar as­pects of Mr. Obama’s re­forms — such as en­sur­ing that sick cus­tomers can get cov­ered — with­out the man­date re­quir­ing health­ier peo­ple to sign up.

The House GOP’s “Bet­ter Way” blue­print, how­ever, would en­tice con­sumers into cov­er­age by al­low­ing them to shop across state lines and use tax cred­its on any plan they want, in­stead of ones that meet min­i­mum cov­er­age re­quire­ments from Wash­ing­ton.

As it stands, more than 4 mil­lion Oba­macare cus­tomers se­lected a plan on the fed­eral Health­Care. gov web­site serv­ing 39 states dur­ing Nov. 1-Dec. 10 — roughly 250,000 more plan se­lec­tions than in first 40 days of last year’s sign-up pe­riod.

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