EDITORIAL: Health care issues must be addressed


Open enrollment deadline Friday

With the holiday season in full swing, some tasks get lost in the shuffle as Christmas Day quickly approaches. But as you make your lists and check them twice, don’t overlook health insurance.

The deadline for open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act — widely known as Obamacare — is Friday. In the past, people could sign up until the end of January, but the enrollment period was cut short this year, and the deadline is inconveniently just 10 days before Christmas.

Despite Republicans’ efforts to repeal Obamacare earlier this year, it remains in place.

“We don’t know when the federal debate over the Affordable Care Act will be resolved but any final changes are not likely to happen during the 2018 coverage year,” Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming said in a news release. “Consumers have a very short window to sign up for a plan, but no one should wait to see what happens in Washington, D.C.”

Last year, nearly 25,000 Wyomingites signed up for coverage during the open enrollment period. Insurance rates may be more affordable for some people this year, according to Blue Cross Blue Shield. There’s also cost assistance available for those in need. For more information or to enroll, visit www.HealthCare.gov or call 800-318-2596. You can reach a Wyoming Navigator by calling 211.

Individuals and families must determine what insurance plan is best for them. Unfortunately, many people struggle to pay the high costs of health care, even with insurance.

Locally, we’re fortunate to have alternative options with Heritage Health Center and 307Health in Powell and the Heart Mountain Volunteer Medical Clinic in Cody — in addition to Powell Valley Healthcare and West Park Hospital.

But as a country, we still must address issues in our health care system without getting bogged down in the politics. During national debates on health care this year, conversations often got high-centered on political points instead of focusing on real solutions.

As just one example of the problems: Congress has failed to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The program covers children whose parents make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but who cannot afford private insurance coverage.

Nationwide, nearly 9 million children are covered through the program; in Wyoming, 7,387 children receive CHIP-funded coverage, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

As federal funding for the program dries up, millions of families in America are left worrying whether their child will be insured in 2018. Unless Congress acts, federal funds for CHIP in Wyoming are expected to run out in April, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In 2015, the last time Congress approved CHIP funding, the program received overwhelming bipartisan support, passing 92-8 in the Senate. The Children’s Health Insurance Program remains vital, and it shouldn’t fall victim to the politics of the day.

As we soon begin a new year, we hope our political leaders will take action and do what’s best for patients.