WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is expected to defend his signature healthcare law Tuesday night in his final farewell speech from Chicago.
The public defense comes at a poignant moment as Republicans on Capitol Hill are set to repeal the law potentially even before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in. Senate Republicans could begin procedural votes on Thursday.
“This law is hurting people right now,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Tuesday.
While a majority of Americans want to see the law repealed, some are questioning the pace at which Republicans are working, given that no clear replacement plan has been agreed upon.
“We need to make sure that there is a stable transition so that people do not have the rug pulled out from under them,” Ryan said.
As Republicans worked to ease concerns Tuesday, officials with the Obama administration released new enrollment numbers for the federal marketplace in an effort to tout the law, highly critical of promises from Republicans to repeal the law.
Health and Human Services officials said 167,868 Hoosiers were currently signed up for coverage in 2017 through the federal marketplace, which included 38,798 new customers. But that's about 14,400 fewer people than at the same time last year.
“Demand for health coverage is higher than ever, and Hoosiers are proving once again that Marketplace coverage is vital to them and their families,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement.
Democrats are promising a fight and have said they won't work with Republicans on a replacement.
“If Republicans move forward with repealing the healthcare law without a plan, thousands of Hoosiers could unnecessarily lose coverage,” Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) said in a post in his YouTube page.
A lot remains unknown depending on how Congress acts.
“The insurance companies have committed to honoring these contracts through the end of 2017,” Kathleen Falk said last month, regional director for Health and Human Services covering Indiana.
But Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kiser Family Foundation, said Tuesday marketplace contracts would allow insurance companies to drop coverage under certain circumstances, like the law’s repeal, with just a 90-day notice.
“If something were to happen in the next few weeks, they could start to leave sometime in May,” Pollitz said. “But again, for right now, these are the plans that are in effect.”
Hoosiers can still register for insurance through the federal marketplace through the end of the month.