By SUSAN CALLAHAN, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
Recently, I saw a public service announcement about the dangers of Global Warming. It showed a polar bear, on a rapidly shrinking piece of arctic ice, looking around concerned. If you are one of the 11 million Americans currently enrolled in Obamacare, you must feel like that polar bear. The safe harbour amid the merciless landscape of health insurance for you and millions of others suddenly is no longer safe.
Yesterday, the CEO of Humana, one of the largest health insurers in the nation, announced that at the end of 2017, it is puling out of the Obamacare exchanges.
This announcement is just the last in a slow-moving avalanche of announcements sounding the death-knell for the Affordable Care Act, former President Obama's signature achievement.
The nation's four largest insurers --- United Healthcare, Aetna, Humana and Anthem --- each have lost over $300 million underwriting Obamacare policies. Taken as a group, all insurers have lost a total of $2 billion on Obamacare policies in 2016.
Today, the CEO of Aetna pronounced that "Obamacare is in a death spiral". Much as I don't like agreeing with him --- he's right.
Obamacare will soon die, for the simple fact that it is no longer workable for insurance companies.
Obamacare will soon die for a second reason. It will die because Republicans in Congress and a Republican-like President are now in the political position to follow-through on their desire to repeal Obamacare.
Obamacare represented the following "deal" for insurance companies. You insure everyone, even those with pre-existing conditions, and we the government, will deliver you all the customers, including healthy ones. Because healthy people don't cost insurance companies anything to insure them, the idea was that a mixed pool of healthy and unhealthy people would be profitable for the insurance companies.
It didn't work out that way. Healthy people bailed out of Obamacare insurance, leaving the insurance companies on the exchanges with the unenviable task of making a profit by insuring the uninsurable. Left with mostly unhealthy people, the insurance companies hiked up the premiums to cover the increased costs of care. Consumers complained about the heavy financial costs. But it still wasn't enough. Last year, Aetna lost over $400 million underwriting Obamacare policies. It is pulling out.
So, inevitably, Obamacare will one day no longer exist. What can we do to obtain insurance in a post-Obamacare world? What about those of us with pre-existing medical conditions?
About 90% of Americans Will Not Be Affected By Obamacare's Repeal
In September of 2016, the US Census issued a report on the status of health care coverage in the United States.
According to this comprehensive report, between 9.1 and 9.4% of the US population had no health insurance coverage for all of the year ended 2015.
Which means that about 91% of Americans were covered by health insurance.
The breakdown is by age. Under the age of 19, 94.7% of all Americans are covered by health insurance. Over the age of 65, a whopping 98.9% of Americans are covered by health insurance, because they are eligible for Medicare.
During their working years, between the ages of 19 and 65, 84.7% of all of the rest of Americans are covered by health insurance.
Many people are covered by both a government insurance plan and a private insurance plan. For example, those insured through Medicare may choose to supplement their insurance with a private plan.
Tens of millions more are covered by other Federal or state government plans (those in the military, Medicaid plans, CHAMPVA and TRICARE, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIPS) and various state government insurance plans).
of the remaining 19 million people, some 11 million still are enrolled in an Obamacare exchange. If you're one of them, what are your options?
State High Risk Insurance Pools
Before Obamacare, 33 states had insurance pools designed to cover those state residents who had pre-existing conditions that made them uninsurable in the private insurance market.
With the passage of Obamacare, most of these so-called "high risk pools" vanished. Or so the story goes, if you read most accounts on the web. The truth is, these high risk pools were never the panacea many hoped they would be. Many of them were woefully underfunded.
As of the end of 2016, 13 states still had some type of high risk pool for the uninsurable. This is the most current list:
Alaska (ACHIA) (888) 290-0616)
California (MRMIP) (1-888-289-6574)
Connecticut (HRA, unclear if they are still providing coverage, 1-855-805-4325)
Illinois (ICHIP)( 800-962-8384)
Iowa (HIPIOWA)( 1-877-793-6880)
Mississippi (Mississippi Comprehensive Health Insurance Risk Pool Association. Its website now states it is no longer offering coverage. It's not clear whether this will be changed after Obamacare is officially repealed; a Board of Director's meeting is scheduled for February 24, 2017; 1-888-820-9400)
New Mexico (NMMIP)(1-844-728-7896)
North Dakota (CHAND- Comprehensive Health Association of North Dakota)( 800-737-0016 )
South Carolina (SCHIP)(This program is administered by Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina)( 803-788-0500, ext. 46401 (Columbia) Ph: 800-868-2500, ext. 46401 (Outside Columbia)
Tennessee (appears to be defunct but we are not sure if coverage will be revived after Obamacare's repeal)
Washington (WSHIP)( 1-800-877-5187 )
Wyoming (WHIP)(no specific dedicated phone number is given; only the general number for the State Insurance Department, (800) 438-5768)
We are in a period of uncertainty concerning post-Obamacare coverage that can euphemistically be described as "fluid". We will try to keep our readers as updated as possible as to viable alternatives.