By Anna Landsverk
With tax season looming and the flurry of President Trump’s first week out of the way, many Americans are wondering how the new president’s actions will affect them financially.
Trump has made many campaign promises regarding taxes, such as cuts for individuals and corporations, increased import taxes (particularly against China and Mexico), tax holidays and even student loan forgiveness. He has also strongly targeted the Affordable Care Act, which affects tax filings and health coverage for millions of Americans.
Repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, will not only mean a big tax break for wealthy Americans who were taxed heavily to pay for the program, but a radical change in how people access healthcare and how much they pay for those services. In all but one state, the open enrollment period for the ACA closed on Jan. 31. Minnesota is the only exception, allowing residents to have continued access to MNsure (the state’s version of the ACA) until Feb. 8.
“MNsure has announced a one-week special enrollment period (SEP) to give Minnesotans additional time to purchase health insurance and benefit from the premium rebate,” according to MNsure.gov. It continued, “The SEP will run from Wednesday, February 1, 2017, through Wednesday, February 8, 2017. It is open to all Minnesotans; however, they must purchase health insurance through MNsure or directly through Blue Plus or Health Partners.”
The sudden change came after the legislature passed a bill in late January to help more people afford the premiums in the MNsure marketplace. In order for those additional people to have time to apply, the deadline was extended. But, with a repeal of the program a main priority for Trump, some may be asking whether or not it’s worth enrolling.
“As long as Obamacare is there, it’s worthwhile to do because you’ll be in the system, and if they do anything where you’re more protected in the system than out, then that’s always better for you,” said Dr. Barbara Headrick, an MSUM political science professor. “Also, get coverage while you can. I did a few years without health insurance in grad school, and that made me nervous constantly.”
She added that while Trump is itching to sign a bill to repeal the ACA, there is not yet an alternative in place, which could be dangerous for patients and politicians alike.
“(Republicans) want to get rid of something that everybody calls Obamacare now, but they don’t have any clue about what they want to put in place of it,” Headrick said. “If there’s all sorts of burdens on emergency care centers again—they don’t want to see a bunch of sad stories about cancer patients who can’t get treatment. Next year is the next election year. Those people in Congress don’t want those stories coming up next year over and over again.”
As patients and insurance companies watch the proceedings in concern, Republicans will have even greater pressure to get the repeal done fast, and right.
“That’s why you had the suggestion of repeal and delay, because yes we’re getting rid of it, but we’re going to keep it in place for now. In three years we’ll tell you what we’re going to do with it,” Headrick said.
“All the Republicans are going to want to vote on something so they can say, ‘We repealed it. We told you we would; we repealed it. The president signed it.’ But whether that actually means anything changes or not, I think they would prefer if they get more time to figure out what actually changes. But they’ve got to cut a deal with the insurance companies so they don’t just bail, and they’ll still get blamed for that. So they’re in a bad place with the Affordable Care Act.”
For everyday people, there is another concern beyond getting coverage. As part of the effort to start dismantling the ACA, President Trump signed two executive orders on the program. The first was a formal “intent to repeal,” asking lawmakers to speed up the process to repeal the legislation and find an alternative. The second order was more open to interpretation.
“So about a week ago, the president . . . encouraged people under him in the administration to not enforce the shared responsibility penalty for people who that failed to get insurance under the Affordable Care Act,” said accounting professor Kim Mollberg. “I had some calls this last week from people after that came out saying, ‘Hey, do I have to sign up?’ and the date was January 31 to sign up. And it’s like, ‘Well the president says this and the law says this. I’m not going to make that call for you; that’s a decision that you’re going to have to make.’”
Still, with the MNsure extension and tax season in full swing, Minnesotans have a little more time to consider their options on enrollment.