The number of Alaskans enrolling in Obamacare slid sharply this year.
By the deadline on Dec. 15, 18,356 Alaskans signed up for health insurance through the http://healthcare.gov exchange, according to Gov. Bill Walker, who made the announcement on Twitter midday on Friday, Dec. 22.
The Department of Health and Social Services and the Division of Insurance made no announcement.
The number of 2018 enrollees represents a 20 percent drop since 2016, the first year for Obamacare in Alaska, when 23,020 Alaskans enrolled.
Those signing up this year make up less than 2.5 percent of the total estimated Alaska population of 740,000.
That number is misleading, however, because enrolling is not the same as paying.
“Effectuated coverage” is the term that applies when people actually pay for the insurance they’ve signed up for. That figure will not be available until February.
The number of people who ended up effectuating their enrollment by paying for it in 2017 was 14,177, which means nearly 40 percent of those who initially enrolled dropped out without paying. The thousands who dropped out likely felt they could not afford it.
The trend toward lower enrollment is being felt nationwide. The final number of sign-ups on the federal Obamacare exchange was 8.8 million, compared with 12.2 million last year.
The liberally focused media and progressive activists blame the Trump Administration for cutting the advertising budget for Obamacare by 90 percent and also reducing funds for the “navigators” available to help people pick a plan.
In Alaska, navigators are not needed, since there is but one company to choose from: Premera Blue Cross.
Most of those who enroll in Alaska — 93 percent — receive taxpayer support through a subsidy to help them with the extraordinarily high premiums available to the thousands of Alaskans who must purchase the insurance or pay a penalty. Those who are covered by employers pay no such penalty. Others, on Medicaid or Medicare, are covered and don’t pay the penalty.
For 2018, the subsidy for a family of four is available for those with incomes up to $123,000, compared to $98,400 in the Lower 48.
The recent tax bill signed into law by President Donald Trump eliminates the tax penalty for not having insurance, but it is still in effect for 2018. The IRS has made unannounced moves to enforce it by not allowing people to complete their online tax returns without showing evidence that they have health insurance.
The penalty for going without health insurance in 2018 is about $695 per adult, or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever is higher.