Experts say repealing Obamacare easier said than done

Image 1 of 3

From the start of his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to repeal Obamacare. Tuesday night's victory raises questions about what is next for the health care plans and the 20 million Americans who are enrolled.

"Obamacare means higher prices, fewer choices, and lower quality," Mr. Trump said at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania on November 1. "If we don't repeal and replace Obamacare, we will destroy American health care forever."

The Affordable Health Care Act (ACA), also known as "Obamacare," has been a GOP target for the past six years. President-elect Trump said he planned to repeal the health care plan during his first 100 days in office.

Meanwhile, open enrollment for the ACA began on November 1 and runs through January 31, 2017. According to health experts, despite any government changes, those who enroll should still be covered through their full, one-year enrollment period.

"If I sign up for Obamacare this week, I have a contract with the federal government and with a third party insurance company," said Jay Wolfson, a professor and associate vice president for the University of South Florida Health.

Analysts predict that while it will likely be easier for Mr. Trump, under a Republican-lead government, to repeal Obamacare, completely replacing the ACA could be a lengthy and costly process.

"There's going to have to be a lot of policy and financial discussion about exactly how you transition people who are, for example, fully subsidized into something else, or how you will continue to subsidize them," said Wolfson.

Some predict that, instead of starting from a clean slate, Mr. Trump and Congress could make targeted changes like removing funding for tax subsidies, meaning money the government grants people (income based) who enroll so they are able to afford coverage.

Currently, more than 80-percent of people getting health care through the exchanges use subsidies to afford care. Suggestions are also on the table for eliminating employer and individual mandates, requiring everyone to have health insurance or face a tax penalty.

"The healthcare system has been broken for a long time, and the Obamacare component to the Affordable Care Act was a start to try to fix it with the expectation that we would tweak this over the next several years," said Wolfson.

Some Americans are hoping it won't take another year before the ACA is gone. Wolfson said the decision not to enroll for 2017, anticipating Trump's repeal, is one that people will have to make at their own discretion.

"They have to determine in their own heads whether paying the tax is going to be a reality, or whether Mr. Trump is going to say, 'I'm going to afford everybody an out of jail pass, so that they don't have to pay the tax next year,'" said Wolfson.

Trump has yet to map out an exact plan. He has proposed giving tax credits to people to help with affordability  and allowing health insurance companies to sell across state lines.

"This maybe an opportunity for all of us, on both sides of the political aisle to say, 'It's time to make America healthy again,' and to do it in a way that's both cost effective and quality oriented," said Wolfson.

In the first quarter of this year, the amount of citizens uninsured fell below 9-percent for the first time. Millions are still expected to see a spike in premiums for 2017.