Inspector General Probes Trump Administration's Move To Pull Obamacare Enrollment Ads

Halting outreach for ACA enrollment could "contribute to weakening healthcare marketplaces and raising costs," Sen. Elizabeth Warren says.

The Department of Health and Human Services inspector general has launched an investigation into the Trump administration’s decision to pull ads encouraging people to sign up for the Affordable Care Act during the enrollment period. By shutting down such outreach, the action could be seen as a stealth way to starve the health plan without legislative authority, critics say.

President Donald Trump’s administration said the ads were a waste of money, but Democrats have characterized the action as sabotage.

In response to a request to investigate the actions from Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the inspector general said his office is conducting a “fact-finding” review, the Hill reported.

The office will examine exactly what was done and when by the administration, and its effect on enrollment in the health plan, according to a letter written to the senators Thursday. Dwindling numbers of consumers enrolled in any insurance undermines an affordable risk pool.

“We will conduct a fact-finding review of HHS’s decision related to halting (and resuming, as applicable) paid advertisements, email, social media, and other outreach efforts related to marketplace enrollment in 2017,” HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson wrote in the letter to the senators.

Warren welcomed the “independent review of the Trump administration’s decision to cut off efforts to enroll people” in the Affordable Care Act. The health department’s “move to halt outreach for ACA enrollment could contribute to weakening healthcare marketplaces and raising costs for hard working people across the country,” she added.

Obamacare remains the “law of the land,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Friday, after the GOP health plan was pulled before a vote because Republican leaders did not have the support needed to pass it.

There are concerns that enrollment may have been hurt when the Trump administration suddenly ended the ads and other outreach in late January just days before the end of open enrollment in Obamacare. Some 12.2 million Americans signed up for the plan during the enrollment period through HealthCare.gov and state insurance markets, but that was lower than expected.

Now that he has lost his fight to pass his own version of a health insurance system, Trump has repeated his plan to let the Affordable Care Act “explode,” which could include further plans to discourage enrollment. Fears about the plan and the Trump administration’s disdain for it could also drive consumers away, critics say, which could be seriously damaging to the health plan system.

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