Week ahead: Record ObamaCare sign-up drive enters third week


ObamaCare is entering its third week of open enrollment and supporters are watching to see if the fast pace of sign-ups will continue.

About 600,000 people signed up for ObamaCare plans in the first four days of enrollment, the Trump administration announced Thursday. About twice as many people signed up on the first day, Nov. 1, this year compared to last year.

That’s an average of 150,000 sign-ups per day for the first four days this year, compared to about 84,000 per day for the first 12 days last year. There is no data for the first four days of last year.

The results show that while the Trump administration cut ObamaCare’s advertising and outreach budget, people are still signing up in record numbers.

{mosads}Of the 600,000 people who signed up in the first four days, 130,000 were new customers, while about 460,000 were returning customers.

That outpaces the rate of new customers signing up for plans compared to last year.

But ObamaCare still faces challenges. This year’s open enrollment period is only half as long as last year’s, meaning people have less time to sign up for plans.

Health-care watchers will also be focused on the Senate, where Republican lawmakers are debating whether to include a repeal of ObamaCare’s individual mandate in their tax-reform bill.

While the bill Republicans released Thursday did not contain a repeal, some senators have said the provision could be added down the line.

Senate Republican leaders have been doing a whip count on repealing the penalty for not having insurance, to see where support stands.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated in a score earlier this week that repealing the mandate would lead to 13 million more uninsured Americans by 2027. But it would also save about $338 billion over 10 years, which could help pay for some tax cuts.  

Meanwhile, the Trump administration indicated this week it would approve state requests for Medicaid work requirements.

Eight states — Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Maine, Utah and Wisconsin — have submitted requests to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services seeking to require nondisabled Medicaid enrollees to either work or provide community service, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Kentucky’s waiver is expected to be approved in the coming days.


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Events & hearings 

The Senate Health Committee will hold a hearing about gene editing technology at 10 a.m. Tuesday in 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

The Senate Health Committee will also hold a hearing about “encouraging healthy communities” at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the same room, with testimony from Surgeon General Jerome Adams.

Also on Wednesday, a Senate Appropriations subcommittee will hold a hearing on the VA’s efforts to prevent over-prescription of opioids at 2:30 p.m. in 124 Dirksen.

Across the Capitol, on Wednesday, a House Appropriations subcommittee will hold a hearing on the VA’s electronic health records at 10 a.m. in 2362-A Rayburn House Office Building. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin will testify.

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