Obamacare sign-ups crater after Trump pulls reminder ads
Sign-ups for healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act cratered in the final two weeks leading up to the enrollment deadline after President Trump and his administration, having repeatedly said they would end the program, pulled advertising reminding Americans about the deadline and how to sign up.
This year, 376,260 people signed up between Jan. 15 and Jan. 31, according to official numbers released by the Department of Health and Human Services Friday. Last year, 686,708 people signed up for coverage in the week before the deadline alone. (This year, the HHS did not break out enrollment figures for the final week.)
Though some Americans may believe that Obamacare has already ended after Trump’s promises before and after Election Day, Larry Levitt, a health policy expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said the lack of outreach was the decisive factor in the decline in sign-ups.
“The only thing that really changed is that the Trump administration pulled a large number of outreach ads, so it looks like that depressed enrollment,” Levitt said. “There is tremendous uncertainty and confusion around the future of the law, and that also could have influenced enrollment results.”
Critics of Trump and supporters of Obamacare were outraged at the decision to pull the ads.
Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, which supports the law, told Politico that it was “a mean-spirited effort that can only result in fewer people getting coverage who need it.”
Overall, about 9.2 million people signed up for 2017 coverage through healthcare.gov, compared to 9.6 people who signed up last year. Enrollment numbers this year were on track with 2016 until the final weeks of the enrollment period, when there is usually a surge in people signing up for coverage.
The Trump administration was quick to point to the drop-off in sign-ups as proof that Obamacare is a failure.
“Obamacare has failed the American people, with one broken promise after another,” HHS spokesperson Matt Lloyd said in a statement Friday. “As noted in the report today… premiums in the ACA marketplace have increased 25 percent while the number of insurers has declined 28 percent over the past year.”
Enrollment did not decline everywhere. New York, which runs its own exchange and does not use healthcare.gov, saw a sign-up increase of more than 22 percent. In Washington state, which has its own state-run health insurance market, sign-ups actually increased by 13 percent.