What happens now to those who have coverage under Obamacare?

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(WSAV) – Georgia Congressman Tom Price, a longtime opponent of the Affordable Care Act (also referred to as Obamacare) is now in a position to do what he has indicated he has wanted to do since 2010, get rid of it.

Price has been selected by President-Elect Donald Trump to serve as the new Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Some in Georgia are now asking what happens to the healthcare coverage they have been able to receive through the federal exchange. “Well, I think that’s going to be one of the major issues with the repeal,” says Dr. Ken Thorpe, a healthcare policy expert from Emory University. “What do you replace it with and what type of insurance do people get?”

In Georgia, more than 587,000 people have been able to buy insurance through exchanges offered by the Affordable Care Act. And 86 percent of them qualified for a tax credit or subsidy that brought down the cost of the average monthly premium.

Thorpe says another issue will be whether there is “a transition period to allow people to move from their current health insurance plans into the new system that the republican Congress puts into place.”

While the Affordable Care Act has been controversial, information on the Kaiser Foundation’s website indicates that the number of uninsured has fallen to an “all time low.” It says the number of uninsured nationwide fell from 16.6 percent in 2013 to 10 percent in 2016.

About 27 million people still lack healthcare coverage however. That was one complaint from republicans over the years, that despite the cost of the law not everyone was being covered. Supporters are quick to reply that one of the reasons for lack of coverage is the refusal from many “Red States” governors to expand Medicaid which was an integral part of the law. The Medicaid Expansion in Georgia for example would have provided 300,000 people with healthcare insurance. But those people have been in what’s termed the “gap” all this time, i.e. they don’t make enough to buy insurance and qualify for a subsidy or tax credit, but make a bit too much to be considered for covered under the old rules.

While much is unclear, including whether any new Republican plan will offer the same kind of financial assistance offered now to millions to help them afford insurance, Dr. Thorpe believes there will be something at least for some people. “The question’s going to be how big are those federal subsidies and how much more or less will people pay as a result,” he said.

Meanwhile, several agencies in Georgia told us they are still encouraging people who get insurance through the exchanges to sign up for coverage.  Open enrollment ends January 31, 2017.

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