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3 Changes Obama Could Make To Help Save The Affordable Care Act

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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter
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President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet with House and Senate Democrats Wednesday to strategize ways to save the Affordable Care Act.

While congressional Democrats are mounting an aggressive campaign against Republican efforts, some experts on health care policy think there is little Obama and Democrats can do at this point. “I don’t think there is technically anything he can do in the next 18 days to legitimately save the Affordable Care Act,” attorney Sara Rosenbaum, founder of the Department of Health Policy at George Washington University, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“In the end, nothing is going to pass without bipartisan consent, if not enthusiasm,” Henry Aaron, a health care expert and scholar at the Brookings Institution, told reporters. “So the critics of Obamacare will have to get something” for Obamacare to stay.

Rosenbaum does, however, think there are three things that need to be fixed that Obama and Democrats can do in the final days of his presidency to make health care more efficient and effective.

1) Make Coverage And Care More Affordable

One of the chief problems with Obamacare is that obtaining health insurance is becoming so expensive it is prohibitive for many Americans. The Obama administration announced in late October that insurance premiums would rise by double-digit percentages in 2017. Premiums will increase at an average of 25 percent across the 39 states serviced by the online marketplace healthcare.gov. Even worse, around 20 percent of consumers, or one in five, will only have one insurer to choose from in the marketplace.

Healthcare costs, from the price of prescription drugs to doctor appointments, rose more in August than any other time since 1984. (RELATED: This Government Mandate Is Driving Up The Cost Of Healthcare In America)

To make insurance and coverage more affordable, “premium subsidies should be more generous, the affordability test should be lower, and cost sharing assistance should be available to anyone receiving a premium subsidy,” Rosenbaum told TheDCNF. While the federal government spent $6 billion setting up Obamacare exchanges and is expected to spend $2.76 trillion through 2020 on various Obamacare programs, Rosenbaum thought that figure was not high enough. She did not have a specific figure in mind, but said there was not “nearly enough investment.”

2) Stabilize The Insurance Market

Obamacare established a transitional reinsurance program to stabilize premiums in the individual market inside and outside the insurance exchange marketplaces. The three-year program was designed to reduce premiums and promote market stability for insurers. The idea was that if the insurer prices remained stable, it would thereby reduce premiums for enrollees in the individual marketplace to ensure market stability with the implementation of new consumer protections in 2014. As mentioned previously, insurance premiums are skyrocketing and consumers in some markets are down to just one insurance provider.

To help fix the volatility in the insurance market, “the stabilization program needs to be extended permanently, as in Medicare Part D,” Rosenbaum explained.

3) Explore Other Incentives Than A Mandate

Under Obamacare, if you can afford health insurance but choose not to buy it, you must pay a fee known as the individual mandate. Rosenbaum said the mandate has not had its intended effect, which was to help increase enrollment in the exchanges. The professor said there are more effective penalties Obama could try to include in his final 18 days, such as a late enrollment fee or a strict enrollment schedule.

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