Having failed to pass a new form of health care, the Trump administration is taking steps to make good on its word to let Obamacare wither and die, beginning with slashing outreach efforts for its upcoming enrollment season by 90 percent and shrinking the enrollment period by half.
In hard figures, this means that funds for Obamacare advertising will plummet from $100 million to $10 million, along with cuts of 41 percent to the in-person enrollment program.
“Judging effectiveness by the amount of money spent and not the results achieved is irresponsible and unhelpful to the American people,” Caitlin Oakley, a Health and Human Services spokeswoman, said in a statement. Most people, administration officials claimed, already know about the Affordable Care Act.
Obamacare advocates emphatically disagree.
“The surest way to kill the exchanges is to keep them a secret,” Timothy Jost, a consumer advocate at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, told Vox. “Sick people will find them, but getting younger and healthier people enrolled is the problem.”
“The Trump administration is deliberately attempting to sabotage our health care system,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “When the number of people with health insurance declines and costs skyrocket, the American people will know who’s to blame.”
The decision will disproportionately impact the 39 states that use the federal enrollment site HealthCare.gov, since they’re more reliant on federal funds and outreach than the other 11 states that operate their own exchanges on their own budgets, Politico points out. California, for one, has proposed spending more than $100 million on spreading the message.
In case it wasn’t obvious that Trump is more than happy to kill his constituents to make his point, the administration is also cutting the enrollment period in half, reducing it from three months to just six weeks. Andy Slavitt, former Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under Obama, posits that the reason for shrinking the window is likely so that the administration can announce lower enrollment.
“At least, that appears to be their hope. If that’s their objective, I’m sure they can achieve it,” he said. States who operate their own exchanges—including California, Minnesota and Colorado—extended their enrollment period to January, but those that rely on HealthCare.gov will have only until December 15.
The Trump administration will continue to run ads on various media platforms via texts and electronic communications, HHS officials said. Cuts will be made primarily to “navigators,” who previously got $62.5 million to shepherd enrollees through the sign-up process.
Hear this now, since you may not as much as you should: The next Obamacare open enrollment period begins November 1.