For many Americans, 2016 is an important year – and not just because they will elect a new president. It’s a year that will put Obamacare to a new test as millions of Americans are expected to re-enroll or start their healthcare plans.
The Affordable Care Act “open enrollment” sign-up period begins Sunday for Americans who want to sign up or change their healthcare plans and will run until January 31st .
An estimated 11.7 million Americans enrolled in the program last year, but one thing has changed this year: healthcare premium prices have risen by at least 6.3 percent. Some premium plans, including the “silver plan,” have risen by 7.5 percent. The penalty fees for not having health insurance coverage will also nearly double this year – costing a staggering $695 per person. (In 2014, the fee was $95 per person.)
The Affordable Care Act, widely known as "Obamacare," is still one of the most contentious issues in Washington. It has come under fire from many Republicans, who are criticizing the effectiveness of the 2016 package – including rising premiums. A group of Republicans continues working on a fast-track bill to repeal Obamacare.
But a divided Republican party is making it more difficult to agree on the contents of the bill. The House voted 240 to 189 to successfully pass a budget-reconciliation bill that took an aim at Obamacare, but some Republicans are complaining it wasn't enough of a direct aim to repeal the plan.
“Each of us campaigned on a promise to fully repeal Obamacare and a reconciliation bill is the best way to send such legislation to President Obama’s desk. If this bill cannot be amended so that it fully repeals Obamacare pursuant to Senate rules, we cannot support this bill,” said Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Mike Lee of Utah in a statement last Thursday.
Additionally, many Republicans are opposed to the costliness of Obamacare, which is estimated to have cost nearly $1.2 trillion. A great deal of the cost comes from government subsidies, dolled out to those who are not insured by their jobs or who are on welfare.
The increase in premiums has, in part, been caused by losses in insurance companies who are now required to sell policies regardless of the medical conditions or medical history of their buyers. Additionally, the rising price of prescription drugs has driven up the cost for insurance companies. Overall, insurers have spent $100 million more this past year.
Still, one of the goals of healthcare reform was to reduce the number of Americans without health insurance. On those grounds, the ACA has worked: the number of uninsured Americans has dropped substantially since 2014, from a high of 14 percent to the current 11.4 percent, a Gallup poll found.