Future of Obamacare in doubt, but people continue to sign up

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Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and other officials urged people Tuesday to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. | Sun-Times file photo

Large numbers of people continue to sign up for health care plans under the Affordable Care Act — both in Illinois and nationwide — but given the program’s uncertain future, local officials on Tuesday urged people not to delay in picking a plan.

“What’s important is the law is the law, and as of right now, the Affordable Care Act is in force, in play and if you are eligible — in any way, shape, form or fashion — register, sign up right now,”  U.S. Rep. Danny Davis said, standing with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and other officials Tuesday at Stroger Hospital.

Some 351,000 Illinois residents have signed up for health insurance under the law during the current open enrollment period, running through Jan. 31, which is about 4,400 more people than at the same time last year, according to federal figures.

Nationally, about 11.5 million people had signed up for marketplace coverage as of Dec. 24. That’s about 290,000 more than last year at the same time.

President-elect Donald Trump is pushing for an immediate repeal and replacement of the act, contradicting the wishes of some in his own party. Some Republican lawmakers want to quickly repeal President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement but wait up to two or three years to pass a full replacement.

Trump told The New York Times on Tuesday that he wanted a repeal vote “probably some time next week.”

Trump said a delay would mean “weeks” at most. But Republicans in Congress appear nowhere near a deal, and House Speaker Paul Ryan has urged that lawmakers be given time to draft replacement legislation.

Locally, officials urged people considering plans to sign up without delay. People should be “confident” that contracts signed in 2017 would be valid for the entire year, said Kathleen Falk, regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Falk was among the officials gathered at Stroger Hospital.

Dr. John Jay Shannon, the Cook County Health and Hospitals System CEO, said it seems unlikely that the Affordable Care Act would be dismantled this year.

“Most of us think that the chaos that would ensue with the unraveling of the Affordable Care Act is going to mean that thoughtful legislators in Washington are going to take a much longer period of time to make any changes to the [ACA] than something that would happen overnight,” Shannon said.

Contributing: AP

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