Pedro Rojas holds a sign directing people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, before the February 15th deadline on Feb. 5, 2015 in Miami, Fla. 
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty

An important ‘Obamacare’ problem starts to disappear

Republican opponents of the Affordable Care Act thought they’d finally identified a serious problem with the current system: several U.S. counties found themselves without a private insurer participating in exchange marketplaces. Some began calling it the ACA’s “bald spot” problem: consumers in those areas might be ready to buy coverage, but their options no longer exist.

As of yesterday, however, what was poised to be a big problem became a much smaller one. The New York Times reported:

A few months ago, it looked as if large swaths of the country might end up without any insurers willing to sell Obamacare insurance in 2018. But in the last few weeks the “bare county” problem, which President Trump had cited as a sign the markets were failing, has nearly solved itself.

On Tuesday, Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada announced that Centene would offer insurance in 14 rural counties of Nevada that had been bare.

The Kaiser Family Foundation maintains a national map showing counties at risk of having no participating private insurer, and as of now, that map shows just two counties: one in Wisconsin and another in Ohio. The number of affected consumers is just 381 people.

This is not to say that those folks are unimportant. There are steps the states can and should take to help those areas, and I hope those 381 people get a hand, sooner rather than later.

But for months, the Trump administration and congressional Republicans have pointed to the “bald spots” as evidence of a systemic crisis for “Obamacare.” But in a country of over 3,000 counties, just two are now facing this problem – not 2 percent, just two individual counties.

What looked like it might be a big problem now looks like a small and manageable one. Conservatives looking for proof of the ACA’s collapse will have to look elsewhere.