New study assesses impact of Obamacare in CT

One day after President Trump vowed to “let Obamacare fail,” a study released Wednesday concluded that the signature achievement of his predecessor delivered $1.16 billion in increased federal funding for health care in Connecticut and sharply lowered the number of uninsured residents and the cost of uncompensated care.

The state data was released on the same day that analysts with the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that repealing portions of the Affordable Care Act would increase the number of uninsured nationally by 17 million next year, 27 million by 2020 and 32 million by 2026.

The state study, commissioned by the Connecticut Health Foundation, would have been provocative if issued in a different time and place, say five days ago in Nevada, where a Republican U.S. senator, Dean Heller, was trying to decide whether to stand with Trump in undoing the Affordable Care Act or with a GOP governor, Brian Sandoval, who saw the existing law as helping Nevadans.

“We commissioned this analysis to document what is at stake as lawmakers consider significant changes to the health care system,” said Patricia Baker, the foundation’s president and chief executive. “We hope this measure of the current status of coverage in Connecticut provides a baseline on which to measure the impact of future reforms.”

Both of Connecticut’s senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, and all five U.S. House members are Democrats allied with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy as supporting the ACA as a flawed law that has nonetheless helped millions of Americans.

The study conducted for the Connecticut Health Foundation by the Urban Institute, a left-leaning think tank in Washington, D.C., was presented in what could be described as a policy wonk’s version of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It presents a statistical snapshot of the health system in Connecticut today — and what it would look like without the Affordable Care Act.

An estimated 198,000 people under age 65 are uninsured in Connecticut. Without the ACA, the study concluded, the number would be 359,000 — a difference of more than 160,000.

More than 160,000 have obtained health coverage under the ACA, but some would have been able to obtain coverage elsewhere. The 160,000 are people who, according to the researchers, had no other options. Nearly half are minorities,including 23 percent who are Latino and 14 percent who are black. The vast majority were from families with at least one person with a full-time job.

The study found minorities in Connecticut far more vulnerable than whites to cutbacks in Medicaid or other sources of coverage. Only 46 percent of blacks and 35 percent of Latinos are covered by employer-sponsored insurance, compared to 72 percent for whites.

The study draws attention to an element of the ACA that’s often overlooked: How it affects the 1.9 million residents who privately insured through their employer or the 163,000 resident who buy policies through the state’s individual market.

The law bans lifetime or annual coverage limits in group plans, a protection against catastrophic medical costs. People cannot be charged more or denied coverage in the individual market because of a pre-existing condition.

“This report helps us understand what’s working in health-care reform, and what needs more work. Residents across the nation have benefited significantly from the ACA, and Connecticut is committed to continuing efforts to make health care more affordable and accessible,” said Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, who chairs the board of Access Health CT, the state’s health insurance exchange.

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