TRUMPAdelphia: Obamacare lives (for now)

Aubrey Whelan, Staff Writer

Updated: Wednesday, December 27, 2017, 12:33 PM

President Donald Trump smiles to the media as he speaks on the phone with children as they track Santa's movements with the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Santa Tracker on Christmas Eve at the president's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Good morning, pals. How many of you said “Merry Christmas” for the first time in eight whole years this weekend without getting carted off to literal jail by the “happy holidays” police?

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Aubrey Whelan

Today, let’s talk about Obamacare. What’s at stake

This was supposed to be the year Obamacare died. There were the summer’s failed repeal attempts, and the fall’s failed repeal attempts, and, finally, the successful repeal of the individual mandate through the tax bill (which does not, as President Trump has been proclaiming, count as a full repeal). And there have been attempts to dismantle the law from within, with executive orders designed to raise premiums and a drastically shortened sign-up period that analysts feared would slash enrollment numbers.

But the Affordable Care Act has proved to be a resilient beast.

The local angle

A lot of people signed up for healthcare this year — fewer than last year, mind you, but the drop was not nearly as severe as health analysts had been predicting. Several states (many of them Trump havens like Kentucky and Missouri!) actually saw an enrollment increase, despite the truncated sign-up period. Pennsylvania enrolled about 30,000 fewer people during this year’s enrollment period, which state insurance officials are counting as a victory.

“It’s a testament to the public’s desire for this health coverage,” the state’s acting insurance commissioner, Jessica Altman, said in a statement. She said she was “thrilled” by the numbers, but still concerned about Pennsylvanians who didn’t sign up due to the confusion surrounding the law this year.

What’s ahead

Supporters of the ACA have framed the unexpected enrollment numbers as a rebuke to Republican efforts to dismantle it. (Tell that to Donald Trump, who spent the holiday weekend crowing about repealing the law on Twitter.) And we haven’t even seen full enrollment numbers from the states that run their own insurance exchanges, many of which did not slash their sign-up period and are already reporting higher enrollment numbers.

Still, now that the individual mandate has been repealed, the real test will come during next year’s enrollment period, when, technically, no one will be required to buy insurance. It’s unclear what happens then (though the Huffington Post has a good article on what insurers predict: higher prices, mostly).

What they’re saying

“People are proud to be saying Merry Christmas again. I am proud to have led the charge against the assault of our cherished and beautiful phrase. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!” — President Trump, on Twitter, honoring the brave veterans of the devastating War On Christmas.

“I confess to being very surprised that ACA marketplace enrollment is down only slightly. That didn’t seem possible with a 90% reduction in outreach, an enrollment period cut in half, and a constant refrain that the program is dead.” — Kaiser Family Foundation analyst Larry Levitt, on Twitter, after the enrollment numbers came out.

“It was pure organic horseshit, just like everything that administration’s done so far.” — The Los Angeles psychiatrist who sent a pile of horse manure (really!) to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s house last week.

In other news… My colleague Trudy Rubin traveled to Bethlehem (the real one, not the Pennsylvania one) and found that President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has stoked fears of unrest and wrecked the Christmas tourist season. A Seattle judge has partially lifted a Trump ban on certain refugees. A 2018 roundup: my colleague Andrew Seidman wrote about local Democrats trying to re-think their midterm plans after state Rep. Daylin Leach, who was campaigning for Republican Rep. Pat Meehan’s seat, was accused of sexual harassment. And in Allentown, longtime GOP Rep. Charlie Dent’s retirement means a ferocious fight is brewing for a wide-open seat, the Morning Call reports. What I’m reading The Atlantic takes stock of a divided right after Trump’s first year in office. Under Scott Pruitt, the EPA is becoming an advocate for the industries it once regulated, the Washington Post reports in a long profile. (And, in case you missed it, a Philadelphia EPA worker told the New York Times last week that his bosses started digging into his emails after he went to a protest over Trump’s budget cuts.) Bitcoin is a big deal on the alt-right. A non-political palate cleanser

My colleague Kristen Graham’s story on a formerly homeless Central High student will break your heart and lift your spirits.

Aubrey Whelan, Staff Writer

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