Obamacare enrollment opens facing pressure from new Trump attacks

BOISE, Idaho — No deeply conservative state has done more than Idaho to make Obamacare work. But no other state is doing more to untangle itself from the health care law.

On the eve of the 2019 open enrollment season, at least three insurers are selling plans in every corner of the sprawling state. It’s got one of the best enrollment rates in the country. The outgoing Republican governor is supporting a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid, which could improve the health of the Obamacare market.

But Idaho officials are backing a radical plan to offer skimpier coverage options, sounding the alarm over their insurance marketplace. They estimate enrollment in the individual market has shrunk by about a third in three years as premiums skyrocketed. The state’s largest insurer, Blue Cross of Idaho, doubled rates in recent years, though they’re rising more slowly in 2019 plans.

“The affordability issue trumps everything,” said Lt. Gov. Brad Little, a Republican who is the front-runner in next Tuesday’s gubernatorial election. “We’ve lost so many young and healthy people out of the [insurance risk] pool that it hurts [everyone] else out there.”

The Obamacare sign-up season starting Thursday is the second one overseen by the Trump administration — and the first since the GOP Congress scrapped the controversial individual mandate once thought to be the law’s linchpin. Yet the insurance marketplaces appear to have stabilized in Idaho and many states after years of turbulence. With fresh encouragement from the Trump administration, however, red states are eyeing yet another batch of opportunities for scaling back Obamacare.

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