The Trump administration has backed down from its plan to cancel all remaining Obamacare outreach during the final week of open-enrollment, scrapping a move that many of the laws’ supporters interpreted as an obvious attempt at sabotage.
On Thursday, Politico reported that the Department of Health and Human Services intended to pull the plug on all television ads and other outreach efforts, such as reminder emails, meant to encourage Americans to sign up for coverage before the law’s Jan. 31 deadline. The decision was unconvincingly billed as a cost-cutting measure that would save the government $5 million but seemed like a rather transparent attempt to depress enrollment during the crucial, last-minute stretch during which younger, healthier customers tend to sign up for coverage. There was a lot of talk about how this was the moment Obamacare officially became Trumpcare—you break it, you buy it, that sort of thing.
Now the Trump administration appears to have had second thoughts. According to Politico, HHS said it would in fact still send reminder emails, tweets, and automatic phone calls as part of the outreach drive. It also said it had failed to yank some of radio and TV ads, though it did successfully call off about $4 million to $5 million of spots.
Why the backpedaling? Perhaps the administration wasn’t expecting such a loud response from activists and industry. Per Politico:
Obamacare supporters have taken to Twitter and other social media platforms to encourage enrollment, and insurers also expressed alarm that the Thursday decision could result in higher prices and more unstable markets.
“At a time when the individual market faces challenges, we need as many people as possible to participate—so that costs go down for everyone,” said Kristine Grow, spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans.
The last thing Donald Trump or other Republicans want right now is to be blamed for higher insurance costs, considering that’s supposedly why they’re trying to replace Obamacare in the first place. That suggests this might not be the last time an outcry is enough to make them back down from an assault on the ACA.
And then, of course, there’s this to consider: