For the millions of Americans who have health coverage through the Affordable Care Act, and the millions more who still need coverage, the past six months have felt a bit like a yo-yo. First, Congress was going to repeal Obamacare, then it was going to replace it, then it was going to fix it.
In the end, it did nothing at all – for now.
Still, as the debate in Congress has shifted to tax cuts, the uncertainty over health care policy remains. The federal budget could cut billions of dollars from Medicare and Medicaid, posing a significant risk to hospitals and other providers and, more importantly, the lives of the patients you serve. And some lawmakers are promising to revisit ACA repeal in the future.
Amid this turmoil, on Wednesday, the annual open enrollment period for 2018 for health plans sold via ACA exchanges opened. And although this period is truncated – just six weeks compared to 12 weeks in previous years – its opening signifies something important: that the coverage so critical to hospitals and their patients is still here.
That’s no small feat, and ensuring broad-based coverage has been a focus of the hospital field nationally and here in Maryland since repeal efforts began. Without broad-based coverage, we simply cannot do what is needed to take care of communities and meet the requirements of a new all payer model. This week’s start of open enrollment offers a clear message: the exchange is still here, and it is still a necessity for those who would find themselves either uncovered or under-covered without it.
We know the fight to protect coverage isn’t over. And as the national conversation about health care continues, for hospitals, politics will always take a back seat to patients.