Even though a government report contradicts claims that the Affordable Care Act is “failing,” reports indicate Donald Trump’s administration is taking steps to help that claim come true.
PBS reports that the Trump administration has ended ACA contracts, cutting access to assistance for shoppers for health coverage on the exchanges and reducing the number of places they can go for help.
In 18 cities where people looking for help in buying coverage from the exchanges were formerly able to go to certain libraries, businesses and urban neighborhoods to find help signing up for coverage, that help is no longer available. Trump, who has famously said that he would “let Obamacare fail,” seems to be but actively seeking ways to make it happen.
The PBS report points out that community groups, which learned of the move from contractors, say that the contracts’ ends will make it even more difficult to enroll the uninsured and help people who are already covered re-enroll or shop for a new policy. It compounds a problem that already exists, with confused consumers already worrying about an enrollment period that’s been cut in half—from 90 days to just 45—and beginning Nov. 1 and ending Dec. 15.
In addition, though its attempts thus far to pass a replacement or even just a repeal have failed, early this year, the administration pulled paid advertising for the sign-up website HealthCare.gov. That launched an inquiry by a federal inspector general into that decision and whether it hurt sign-ups.
There’s also been the executive order not to enforce mandates, which buttress the program financially, and the withholding of cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments by the administration to insurers—which has caused several to pull out, or consider pulling out, of the program, or substantially raise premiums.
There are also allegations that the administration has actually undertaken an extensive public relations campaign against the ACA, using taxpayer funds that were intended to promote enrollment in the program to denigrate its quality and effectiveness. A Daily Beast report cites “sources at various agencies and on the Hill” for information on the PR effort and changes to websites that formerly provided information and assistance on the ACA and how to sign up.
The Department of Health and Human Service’s own website is delivering criticism of the ACA, not information on the ACA and ways to sign up for health care — and changes have been made on healthcare.gov as well relating to consumer education. “Under the ‘Get Answers’ section of the site,” the report says, “there no longer is a ‘Cost & Savings’ tab that allows visitors to find out where to find prices, if they have to pay penalties, or if they qualify for savings.”
The administration’s efforts have prompted legal experts and Congressional Democrats to ask government agencies “to investigate whether the administration has misused funds and engaged in covert propaganda in its efforts to damage and overturn the seven-year-old health care law. It’s also roiled Obama administration veterans, who argue that the current White House is not only abdicating its responsibilities to administer the law, but sabotaging it in an effort to facilitate its undoing by Congress.”
“I’m on a daily basis horrified by leaders at the Department of Health and Human Services who seem intent on taking health care away from the constituents they are supposed to serve,” former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is quoted saying in an interview with The Daily Beast. “We always believed that delivering health and human services was the mission of the department. That seems to not be the mission of the current leadership.”
“There’s a clear pattern of the administration trying to undermine and sabotage the Affordable Care Act,” Elizabeth Hagan, associate director of coverage initiatives for the liberal advocacy group Families USA is quoted in the PBS report saying. Hagan adds, “It’s not letting the law fail, it’s making the law fail.”