S&P: ObamaCare enrollment hurt by Trump uncertainty

S&P: ObamaCare enrollment hurt by Trump uncertainty
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Enrollment in ObamaCare's exchanges next year could drop by as much as 1.6 million people because of uncertainty caused by the Trump administration, according to a Wall Street forecast released Tuesday. 

The estimate from S&P concludes that enrollment next year could be 7 to 13 percent lower than the 12.2 million people who signed up in 2017. 

ObamaCare's fifth open enrollment period begins Wednesday and ends Dec. 15 in most states.  

Enrollment in the exchanges could be anywhere from 10.6 million to 11.4 million, the report predicts. 

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"Insurer exits, higher-than-expected premium rate hikes, a series of repeal-and-replace votes, the cancelation of future federal cost-sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies, an executive order on health care, and a recent discussion about a short-term bipartisan fix have all contributed to the uncertainty that has been brewing lately."

The report estimates that most current enrollees will sign up again for coverage next year, but there will be fewer new enrollees because of the confusion and lack of advertising. 

The Trump administration cut the law's advertising budget by 90 percent for next year. 

The report also attributes the expected decline to a shorter enrollment period, funding cuts to in-person enrollment assistance and higher premiums for those who don't qualify for subsidies. 

Insurers across the country have raised premiums in response to uncertainty over whether the administration would continue ObamaCare's insurer subsidy payments. 

People who qualify for subsidies will be mostly shielded from those hikes because subsidies are designed to increase with premiums. 

But people who don't qualify for subsidies will pay the full price of the increases, which could cause some to decide to go without coverage this year. 

A decline in the number of people signing up for coverage could bolster the Trump administration’s argument that the law is failing and needs repealed 

Republicans in Congress hope to turn back to repeal legislation next year.