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Obamacare Sign-Ups Begin,More Uninsured10/31 13:14

   Millions of Americans who have lost health insurance in an economy shaken by 
the coronavirus can sign up for taxpayer-subsidized coverage starting Sunday.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Millions of Americans who have lost health insurance in 
an economy shaken by the coronavirus can sign up for taxpayer-subsidized 
coverage starting Sunday.

   It's not a new COVID relief program from the government but the return of 
annual sign-up season under the Affordable Care Act, better known as 
"Obamacare." Open enrollment lasts through Dec. 15.

   The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs HealthCare.gov, 
says premiums are down slightly on average for 2021 and most people will have 
at least three insurers from which to pick plans. Lower-income people and even 
middle-class families may qualify for tax credits that can greatly reduce what 
they pay monthly for premiums.

   But President Donald Trump, unrelenting in his opposition to President 
Barack Obama's signature domestic program, is asking the Supreme Court to 
overturn the entire law.

   Trump has been promising a much better replacement since before taking 
office, but never came out with his plan. The justices are scheduled to hear 
the case Nov. 10, and the administration is doing little to promote sign-ups, 
having previously slashed the program's ad budget.

   "Affordable health coverage is more essential than ever during the 
pandemic," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who's urging people to 
enroll even if Trump keeps trying to do away with the law.

   Hard numbers on how virus-related job losses have affected health coverage 
are not available because the most reliable government surveys will not be out 
until next year. Estimates range from 5 million to 10 million newly uninsured 
people. That's on top of 26 million uninsured last year, before the pandemic, 
or about 8% of the U.S. population.

   "There is a coverage crisis happening, " said Stan Dorn, a health policy 
expert now with Families USA, a liberal advocacy group. "And there are fewer 
resources available to help, thanks to the Trump cuts."

   Dorn worries that's "a setup for epic failure," and many people will remain 
uninsured even as states across the country are seeing alarming increases in 
coronavirus cases.

   Administration officials say HealthCare.gov is open for business and ready 
to handle sign-ups online or via its call center. "We'll be working through the 
upcoming open enrollment period...to ensure a smooth user experience," CMS 
Administrator Seema Verma said.

   More than 11 million people currently have coverage through HealthCare.gov 
and state-run health insurance markets offering subsidized private plans. The 
health law also covers another 12 million people through its Medicaid 
expansion, adopted by all but 12 states.

   Medicaid enrollment has gone up by nearly 4 million people since March, but 
it's still unclear how many laid-off workers are coping after the loss of 
employer coverage in the coronavirus economy.

   Those who are healthy most likely have other priorities, such as finding 
another job. Workers who were furloughed, but not laid off, may have been able 
to keep their coverage. Some appear to have switched to a spouse's plan, and 
those age 65 and older can get on Medicare.

   The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 80% of those who 
lost workplace health insurance are eligible for coverage under the law, either 
through the insurance markets or Medicaid.

   Some private businesses, such as HealthSherpa.com, have created a niche 
market helping people enroll in HealthCare.gov plans. Former Obama 
administration officials are trying to promote sign-ups through 
GetAmericaCovered.org. Community organizations also play a role helping people 
with paperwork.

   But, Dorn said, "a lot of people who need health insurance may not know 
there this is there chance to sign up."

 
 
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