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Politics & Government

Wisconsin Providers Encourage Clients to Sign Up for ACA in 2017

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
A Florida resident signing up for the Affordable Care Act.

Congress returned to session on Tuesday. One item Republican lawmakers promise to repeal, and in short order, is President Obama’s signature health care law – the Affordable Care Act.

In Wisconsin, the data shows that more than 173,000 people now get their health insurance through the ACA.  With its future in doubt, WUWM asked several providers what they’re advising people who are looking for insurance.

Some clients are asking Cathy Mahaffey if they should bother to enroll in the Affordable Care Act because members of Congress have vowed to repeal it. Mahaffey is CEO of Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative. It’s been enrolling people in 19 counties in southeastern Wisconsin, since the ACA began three years ago.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty out there and we’ve definitely heard some comments from folks like, we probably should get enrolled now during this open enrollment period so that I have some coverage for at least a short period of time,” she says.

Right now, the country is in the midst of the ACA sign-up period – it runs until the end of January. Mahaffey says, so far, about 32,000 people have joined, the same number as in previous years, and the majority are older adults – ages 45 to 64. She’s advising everyone who asks to enroll.

“It’s important to have health insurance coverage. We believe people should be enrolled in health plans, taking good care of themselves and getting their preventive care. We are encouraging everyone to look at it and see how affordable it really can be, particularly if you qualify for the tax subsidies for your premiums,” Mahaffey says.

“I do think Congress is going to act quickly and I think coverage is going to be at risk,” Dr. Mario Molina of Molina Healthcare of Wisconsin says. His company has also enrolled about 30,000 people during the current sign-up period, many with very low incomes.

Molina’s advice: Sign up for coverage in 2017.

“Get enrolled while you still have a chance. I think it’s less likely that the government will cancel people’s policies in the middle of the year so at least they would be covered for one year,” he says.

While the two health insurance agents are advising clients to sign-up for the ACA, the Wisconsin Hospital Association isn’t making any preparations for a repeal, according to President Eric Borgerding.

“I wouldn’t say that they’re gearing up or preparing for a surge of folks into the ER because we don’t know yet what will replace the ACA and I don’t think we’ll know that for two or three years, we’ll just have to see,” he says.

Borgerding says the Association has been communicating with state and federal officials, hoping for a smooth transition from the ACA to whatever is next.

The Walker administration didn’t return calls for comment on what the state might be planning.

In 2015, rather than jumping aboard the ACA, Gov. Walker expanded Wisconsin’s BadgerCare program to provide health coverage for everyone living at or below the poverty line. It directed everyone above the line to enroll in the ACA.

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