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December 19, 2019

2020 Obamacare enrollment unaffected after court strikes down individual mandate 

Photo | CT Mirror DSS has hired over 100 new staff members to help with Medicaid unwinding. The agency is also ramping up the number of contracted staff to support its shared operations with Access Health CT, including call centers and data entry.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday dealt a legal blow to the Affordable Care Act that could endanger federal premium subsidies and expanded Medicaid coverage in Connecticut.

However, Connecticut health advocates sought to reassure those enrolled in 2020 health plans offered through the state’s federally subsidized insurance exchange -- Access Health CT -- saying nothing will change for the time being.

The majority decision said that Obamacare’s mandate that requires individuals to purchase insurance amounts to an unconstitutional command, since it is no longer tied to a tax penalty, after Republicans removed those penalties from the law in late 2017.

The appeals court remanded the case back to the U.S. District Court to determine whether the entire law is unconstitutional.

“The most important thing to understand is that for now, nothing changes,” Connecticut Health Foundation CEO Patricia Baker said in a statement. “The open enrollment period to buy health insurance for 2020 through Access Health CT, the state’s health insurance exchange, remains in effect, and federal financial aid is still available to help people pay for their coverage. The existing rules about coverage still apply.”

(Access Health recently extended its enrollment deadline by one month)

However, depending on how the case plays out, there could be significant impacts for Connecticut, she said. A 2017 study determined that more than 160,000 residents here have health insurance coverage because of Obamacare. Many of those people could be uninsured if the entire law is found to be unconstitutional.

Frances G. Padilla, president of Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, called the decision “appalling.”

“The decision threatens the affordability of and access to coverage for anyone under age 65 living with a pre-existing health condition,” Padilla said. “Close to $2 billion of federal funding for Access Health CT subsidies are at risk, affecting approximately 75,000 state residents.  And almost 300,000 state residents stand to lose their Medicaid coverage.”

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