- Associated Press - Monday, January 30, 2017

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - More than 18,000 Alaska residents have signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, a slight increase from last year despite uncertainty over the future of so-called “Obamacare.”

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released figures showing that 18,255 Alaskans signed up for coverage as of Jan. 18, compared to last year’s 17,995 residents. Open enrollment continues through Tuesday.

The growth comes as President Donald Trump has vowed to repeal the law, but lawmakers have yet to reach an agreement on a replacement. Congressional Republicans, including the Alaska delegation, have been pushing for an overhaul of the legislation.

Jessie Menkens, coordinator for the Navigator Program at Alaska Primary Care Association, said debate over whether the health care law should be repealed has created some confusion in Alaska.

“I think some of the national news carrying over to our state is causing some confusion, and that’s understandable,” she told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://bit.ly/2ki1qYJ). “We want residents across our state to know there’s still time to get enrolled.”

People are guaranteed coverage for the remainder of 2017, even if the repeal goes through.

“Right now, the really important thing for Alaskans to realize is there is this contractual agreement with (Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska) - so long as Alaskans get enrolled and pay their first premium and continue to pay those premiums on time, those agreements will be honored,” Menkens said.

The federally funded navigator program has helped provide people throughout the state with information about enrolling in the federal marketplace. Menkens, who works in Fairbanks, said the level of interest and the jump in enrollment has exceeded expectations.

“Yes, obviously there are some big changes on the horizon, but we don’t know the timing of those changes,” she said. “We’ll work to continue to educate the public as more information comes about and we have a clearer picture what is coming ahead.”

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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