The Health 202: Obamacare marketplaces survived Trump’s term better than expected

“The overall impact of the Trump administration’s policies towards the marketplaces have probably been more muted than most expected — at least so far,” said Adam Gaffney, a professor at Harvard Medical School and president of Physicians for a National Health Program.

Enrollment in Healthcare.gov and the state-based marketplaces is open through Dec. 15.

People can shop for private plans, and qualify for federal subsidies if their income is between 133 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level.

To the concern of health-care advocates, enrollment has ticked down over the past four years, contributing to the nation’s worsening uninsured rate amid the coronavirus pandemic and fueling a growing sense among Democrats that further health restructuring is needed.

Yet by some measures, the marketplaces look healthier than ever.

Individual insurance premiums and choices have steadily improved over the past four years, despite Democrats’ insistence that the administration’s policies would destroy the marketplaces. That trend will continue in the 2021 enrollment season.

“One thing the marketplaces proved is how resilient they actually are,” said Andy Slavitt, former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Barack Obama.

Still, there’s a clear difference in how a Joe Biden administration would approach the ACA.

It certainly would invest more in boosting marketplace enrollment, advisers say. The Democratic nominee, if he wins tomorrow’s election, is expected to restore funds Trump scrapped to advertise the law and may push Congress to pass legislation increasing the income-based subsidies available to people. 

A Democrat-led administration may also reverse some of the changes President Trump made to the marketplaces — although Trump’s record on them is more nuanced than either party claims.

“The truth is somewhere in middle between what Republicans say and what Democrats say,” said Larry Levitt, a vice president for the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The average Obamacare customer can choose from plans offered by four to five issuers.

That’s up from an average of three to four issuers in 2020, according to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Four percent of enrollees will have access to plans from just one issuer, up from 12 percent of enrollees this year.

And premiums are declining for the third straight year. The average premiums for the second-lowest-cost “silver”-level plan will be 2 percent lower next year. Average premiums for these “benchmark” plans have declined 8 percent since 2018.

“Despite the uncertainty of the pandemic and concerns about the future of the ACA, the marketplaces are strong and healthy, and premiums for high-quality, comprehensive coverage remain very affordable,” said Joshua Peck, co-founder of Get America Covered — a nonpartisan group that has worked to spread the word about the marketplaces even as the administration has cut advertising for it.

It’s a distinct shift from how things looked during the Obama administration. The first few years of the marketplaces were marked by double-digit premium increases and a steady stream of exits by insurers, as they struggled with how to price and sell insurance

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Anna Del Priore And Helen Guzzone, Sisters Over 100, Survived 1918 Flu And COVID Infections

Two sisters, Anna Del Priore and Helen Guzzone, are over 100-years-old and both survived the deadly flu pandemic in 1918, as well as COVID-19 in 2020. 

Anna, age 108, and Helen, 105, contracted the Spanish flu as children when it was at its peak and lived through it. When the coronavirus flooded through nursing homes around April and May of this year, they both fought their way through that as well after testing positive.

According to the Washington Post, Anna was 107 when she tested positive for the novel coronavirus in May while she was living in a New Jersey nursing home. While she had a fever, cough, and needed some oxygen at times during her fight against the virus, she never needed a ventilator and recovered in six weeks. 

As for her sister Helen, she tested positive for COVID-19 in March when she was 104 while in her nursing home in New York. Unlike Anna, she was healed in just two weeks instead of six. 

The Post explained that the century-old sisters were as active as can be. Anna loves to Tango dance and took daily walks to McDonald’s until she turned 100. Helen did exercises into her 90s and her son, Nick, explained to the outlet that she stays away from dairy products, smoking, and drinking alcohol. 

CNBC released an interview with the two sisters on Thursday and asked them what the secret was to living for so long. Anna said, “Well, to be honest and kind. Believe in God. All the good stuff.” 

When asked how often she exercises to stay healthy, Helen said, “I do it every night before I go to bed. I kick my legs. I go up and down, up and down 10 times.” 

These two sisters celebrated their 108th and 105th birthdays on Sept. 5 (yes, they have the same birthday) and are both healthy after fighting off COVID-19.

covid virus A virus is pictured under a microscope. Photo: National Institutes of Health / Handout

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