- The Washington Times - Monday, June 12, 2017

Nearly 2 million people haven’t paid for Obamacare coverage they selected during the 2017 enrollment season that ended on Jan. 31, the Trump administration said Monday in a report that argues Americans are clamoring for more affordable options.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said only 10.3 million of the 12.2 million people who signed up on the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges had paid the premiums necessary to keep their coverage as of March 15.

The Obama administration last fall estimated that 11.4 million individuals would hold effectuated coverage on an average monthly basis over the course of 2017, meaning actual enrollment is falling short of that target, though initial sign-ups fell short of expectations to begin with.

Democrats say President Trump is actively sabotaging the markets by failing to promote or fully enforce the law, though the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the numbers underscored inherent problems in the 2010 law itself — and the need to repeal and replace it.

“Consumers are sending a clear message that cost and affordability are major factors in their decision to cancel or terminate coverage,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said.

The administration’s statements marked a dramatic shift in tone from the Obama era, when the administration characterized such attrition as a natural part of enrollment cycles. Last year, about 12.7 million selected plans on the exchanges, yet enrollment slid to 11.1 million by the end of March.

The Trump administration, meanwhile, said rising premiums and dwindling choices in the marketplace were taking their toll.

“Not surprisingly, as costs continue to go up, fewer Americans can afford to pay more and get less for healthcare. Many individuals and families across the country are tired of having their healthcare options dictated to them by Washington — particularly when those limited options are unaffordable,” Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said.

“That’s why every day we are working on behalf of President Trump on solutions that will show a little humility from the federal government, equip states to serve their unique and diverse populations, and put healthcare decisions in the hands of patients, families and their doctors,” he said.

Senate Republicans are putting the finishing touches on a rewrite of the replacement plan that squeaked through the House last month.

The House version saved an estimated $119 billion but would result in 23 million fewer people holding insurance a decade from now, according to Congressional Budget Office.

Senate GOP is helping changes that soften the bill’s impact will produce a better score, though they’re negotiating behind closed doors, enraging Democrats who took heat for how they muscled the 2010 Affordable Care Act to passage.

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