Despite turmoil over the future of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare or the ACA, enrollment in the health care plans barely changed in Teton County this year.
About 1 in 9 Teton County residents has health insurance through the ACA, compared with 1 in 33 nationwide, according to recently released data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Teton County has 2,782 people enrolled in 2018, down about 1.5 percent from the 2,825 enrolled in 2017.
Statewide, enrollment was down about 1.2 percent, from 24,826 in 2017 to 24,529 in 2018. Wyoming’s population also decreased by about 1 percent, or 6,500 residents, between July 2016 and July 2017, according to the latest information from the state’s Economic Analysis Division.
Health insurance in Wyoming was a roller coaster this year.
On Aug. 3 Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming, the only insurance provider on the federal health insurance exchange in the state, announced a 48 percent increase in premiums. In comparison, the average increase in premiums last year was under 10 percent.
Spokeswoman and Senior Director Wendy Curran said the national furor over the direction of health care is partly to blame.
At the same time some zero-premium plans existed under the ACA in Wyoming this year. Nationwide, the Wall Street Journal reported, consumers in 2,692 counties — Teton County being one of them — would be able to obtain free health insurance.
Reactions to the numbers varied along the political spectrum. President Donald Trump says Obamacare is “failing,” “collapsing” and hurting American families. A major promise of his 2016 presidential campaign was overhauling the law.
Wyoming’s U.S. senators, John Barrasso and Mike Enzi, both Republicans, remain opposed to the ACA.
“Obamacare continues to fail in Wyoming and across the nation,” Barrasso said. “Patients simply cannot afford the sky-high premiums and deductibles. This is why I voted to repeal the individual mandate and introduced legislation to give folks more affordable insurance options.”
But navigator Joe Albright, who helps people sign up for the insurance, finds the numbers to be optimistic.
“To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of Obamacare are greatly exaggerated — at least in Teton County,” Albright said.
He was surprised that the daily rate of signups was about twice last year’s, even with a shorter enrollment period. It’s worth noting that in 2017, the enrollment period was twice as long.
“It was quite busy,” Albright said.
In fact, he and the other three certified navigators in Teton County had to add more hours for their services near the end of the enrollment period.
Because of the short enrollment period, people didn’t have a lot of time to think through the options, so they did the best they could in the short time they had, he said.
“But I think as a result they spent fewer hours pondering,” he said. “They found a program that looked good, and they took it.”