How is LA health coverage market faring amid ACA repeal & replace uncertainty?

How is the LA. health coverage market faring amid the ACA repeal & replace uncertainty?

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - With the on-again, off-again efforts on Capitol Hill to repeal and replace the federal Affordable Care Act, many are concerned, including Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon and those who are getting their coverage through the current federal law.

"I'm a contract worker," said Emily Shaw, who was walking in the Bywater .

She buys her health coverage through the healthcare.gov website that was created under former President Obama's signature law.

"I previously had a full-time job that provided that insurance for me, and now it's been great as a contract employee to be able to still have reliable insurance without necessarily, you know, having a full-time, salaried position," said Shaw.

She is nervously watching what's happening on Capitol Hill.

"It just also seems at this point very spiteful, like they're just trying to get rid of it because they don't like the law, because of Obama," said Shaw.

Donelon said the current situation is problematic as premiums continue to go up and insurers flee the health coverage marketplace. Some states have only one insurer. Here in Louisiana, Donelon said Vantage Health Plan and Blue Cross are still in the game.

"So unlike a lot of states, almost half of the states, we have at least two options available in every part of Louisiana...We had United Health Care and Humana at different times participating on the exchange in our market, both of whom have now left the market," said Donelon.

He recently received a heads-up about premium increases for 2018.

"For the entire market, the average will be 18 1/2 percent for individuals, and 7 1/2 for the small group," said Donelon.

"With all of this uncertainty, insurers don't really know how to price premiums," said Susan Todd, executive director for 504HealthNet, a health policy and advocacy organization.

Todd agrees the ACA is not perfect, but she insists that there should be well-thought-out revisions and not hasty action by Congress.

"We need a bi-partisan, thoughtful approach to solving the problem of stabilizing the health insurance marketplace, and that is the single issue that we need to be focused on," said Todd.

A  Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll found that 71 percent of Americans would rather see Republicans in Congress work with Democrats to make improvements to the ACA but not repeal the law, while 23 percent want Republicans to pass a plan to repeal and replace the ACA.

President Trump's Tuesday comment of, "Let Obamacare fail," which followed additional senators announcing their opposition to the proposed repeal and replace bill was worrisome to some in Louisiana.

"It's frightening, it's very frightening. The Affordable Care Act has been great.  I have a pre-existing condition," Shaw said.

"I think Congress should respond to that crisis in the market and the president needs to stay engaged in an effort to fix this problem," Donelon stated.

Wednesday Trump softened his stance and held a luncheon with some GOP senators to again urge passage of legislation repealing the ACA.

Hospitals have a stake in what ultimately happens. When people don't have insurance, they often delay medical care and end up in hospital emergency rooms, which is much more expensive.

Much of the contention among congressional Republicans has centered around Medicaid funding.

"Medicaid is not my responsibility, that's the governor's to deal with. My responsibility is to provide affordable and available insurance coverage to consumers in my state," said Donelon

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