OLYMPIA, Wash. – 180,000 people in Washington buy insurance through state's exchange made possible by the Affordable Care Act.
That doesn't include the 1.5 million people who get their insurance through the state's Apple Health program. And now the future for all of them is uncertain.
Mary Warren of Seattle has been talking with her broker about finding a plan on the state's Washington Healthplanfinder. Insurance consultant Jeff Lindstrom says he's been flooded with inquiries from customers.
“I got about 200 emails,” Lindstrom said. “Overwhelming. They're anxious.”
The self-employed 60-year-old Warren sitting across from Lindstrom worries about her and her husband's future.
“Although I think we're covered for 2017, it's the unknown,” Warren said. “We don't know what's going to happen beyond that.”
“Nationwide, we're talking about 20 million who have insurance because of the Affordable Care Act,” said Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler.
With policies already in place for next year, Kreidler believes 2018 may be the earliest we see changes.
“There is contract law that will make it difficult to abrogate those conditions part way through without having political consequences if not legal consequences,” he said.
A complete repeal may not be feasible, given Republicans are still short of the 60 seats in the Senate to overturn it.
Kreidler thinks they may try to get rid of key components instead.
“Doing away with the individual mandate to buy insurance, you could see that happen pretty quickly,” he said. “Particularly if you took away the requirement for insurance companies to insure anybody even if you have a pre-existing condition.”
That scares a lot of enrollees.
On the KING 5 Facebook page, hundreds of people sounded off about the personal impact.
"I will no longer be able to afford my monthly prescriptions,” wrote Bonnie Shoemaker, who has breast cancer.
But Roni Elsberry wrote, "I might be able to afford to actually get health insurance. Obamacare is not affordable and I'm am penalized for not being able to afford it."
Whatever happens, Kreidler believes Republicans won't tear the bandaid off too quickly, fearing the public backlash of completely pulling the rug out from sick Americans.
“I think that is what will really come home to roost, how can we make changes to the system, so that we're not the bad guys?”