Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Casey Urges Uninsured to Sign Up for Aca Plan Senator Makes Plea as Enrollment Cutoff Nears

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Casey Urges Uninsured to Sign Up for Aca Plan Senator Makes Plea as Enrollment Cutoff Nears

Article excerpt

Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey came to Pittsburgh on Monday to urge those without health insurance to sign up for individual coverage in the Affordable Care Act marketplace before open enrollment ends Saturday.

The three-term Democrat also had a warning for his Republican colleagues: Continue to attack the ACA at your own political risk.

With polls showing that health care was foremost on voters' minds in the recent midterm elections, "Senators who might be running in the next election might want to step back and rethink" their opposition to the Affordable Care Act, he told a gathering at the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania offices in the Strip District.

Mr. Casey was joined by representatives from United Way and the Consumer Health Coalition in lamenting the shortened enrollment period and yearly ACA budget reductions to advertise the marketplace and to fund navigators who help consumers select a plan.

"Death by a thousand cuts," Lou Ann Jeremko called it, saying the North Side coalition where she is executive director - which due to budget cuts has only one full-time navigator this year compared with seven last year - has seen a 23 percent year-over-year drop in enrollments this fall.

That's a pattern Mr. Casey said he's seen throughout the state: "The number in every county is down."

National figures reported by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services tell a similar tale.

On Thursday, CMS said just under 3.2 million people had selected plans on the HealthCare.gov website through the first five weeks of open enrollment. A year ago, the total was 3.6 million.

That, despite an acknowledgement by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services this summer that in Pennsylvania alone, 708,000 state residents were eligible to purchase an ACA plan but had not enrolled.

"I don't understand why this administration seems to believe that covering more people is a bad thing," Mr. Casey said.

In July, CMS said it would award the navigator program nationwide up to $10 million, down from $37 million a year earlier and $100 million the year before that. …

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