352,000 Georgians sign up for Obamacare despite repeal threat

Americans can sign up for Obamacare health insurance and learn if they qualify for tax credits to help pay for it on HealthCare.gov.

Americans can sign up for Obamacare health insurance and learn if they qualify for tax credits to help pay for it on HealthCare.gov.

More than 350,000 Georgians have signed up for coverage through the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchange so far, new federal data released Wednesday shows.

Nationwide, 6.4 million people selected Obamacare plans from Nov. 1 through the Dec. 19 open enrollment deadline for coverage that starts the first of the year. That’s roughly 400,000 more than at the same time last year, according to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services.

» The Affordable Care Act in Georgia

The enrollment numbers don’t include existing insurance exchange consumers whose coverage will be automatically renewed Jan. 1. Enrollment will also remain open through Jan. 31.

Plans bought through the Obamacare insurance exchange are targeted toward individuals and families who don’t get health coverage through an employer. Via HealthCare.gov, people can choose plans and learn if they qualify for federal tax credits to help reduce the cost of insurance premiums.

» How will Trump affect Georgia health care?

What impact the administration of President-elect Donald Trump will have on that coverage is unclear.

Congressional Republicans have long called for repealing -- and eventually replacing -- President Barack Obama's signature health care law. Georgia U.S. Congressman Tom Price is poised to play a major role in that process as Trump's pick for the new head of Health and Human Services.

Meanwhile, current HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell warned Wednesday that repeal along the lines of what’s been proposed by Congress in the past could destabilize the individual insurance market and cause millions of Americans to lose their coverage.

“The American people don’t want to go backward,” Burwell said in a conference call with reporters.

The call center for the insurance exchange has received more than 30,000 calls from people asking questions about repeal, she said.

Still, Burwell emphasized, the Affordable Care Act is the current law of the land and insurers have promised coverage bought for 2017 will remain valid through next year no matter what.

“The best thing folks can do right now is shop and get covered, and millions of Americans have taken that to heart,” she said.

Last year, more than 511,000 Georgians in total selected Obamacare plans. That includes people who were automatically renewed Jan. 1 and those got coverage slated to begin after the first of the year.

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