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Obamacare Repeal Might Be Dead. Trump’s Effort to Sabotage the Law Is Very Much Alive.

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 07:  (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Amir Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah of Kuwait in the Oval Office of The White House  September 7, 2017 in Washington, DC. The two leaders are scheduled to conduct a joint news conference, following meetings and a working luncheon.  (Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)
That look. Pool/Getty Images

Obamacare repeal appears to be dead. Again. Maybe. For the time being anyway. But in the meantime, the Trump administration is still moving forward with its backup plan to simply sabotage the law’s exchanges by making sure the fewest possible people sign up for coverage.

Their latest move? Simply shutting down healthcare.gov on days when people are likely to shop for health coverage. Phil Galewitz of Kaiser Health News has tweeted that Department of Health and Human Services is planning to close the site from 12 a.m. to 12 p.m. on most of the upcoming Sundays during open enrollment, which is only supposed to last a brief 45 days this year, thanks to a rule the administration released in April.

A Department of Health and Human services spokesperson told me in an email that the shutdowns were routine “maintenance outages” scheduled for the “lowest-traffic time periods.” Here was the full statement:

Maintenance outages are regularly scheduled on HealthCare.gov every year during open enrollment. This year is no different. The maintenance schedule was provided in advance this year in order to accommodate requests from certified application assisters. System downtime is planned for the lowest-traffic time periods on HealthCare.gov including Sunday evenings and overnight.

However, Frank Baitman, a former chief information officer for HHS, seems to think the downtimes are unnecessary.

Other Obama administration health policy alums likewise appear to be aghast.

As Slavitt’s tweet points out, this is only the latest move by the administration to try and prevent Americans from signing up for health insurance on Obamacare’s exchanges, either by curtailing outreach or making the markets to harder to access. Last month, news broke that the Department of Health and Human Services would cut Obamacare’s ad budget by 90 percent, while slashing spending on “navigators” who help people sign up for insurance by 40 percent. Any one of these moves might not prove crippling to the law. But collectively, you can see how they might begin to add up.

Anyway, welcome to 2017, in which we have an executive branch fighting tooth and nail to make it harder for Americans to buy the health insurance to which they’re legally entitled.

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