Trump’s plan to handicap Obamacare seems to have backfired as early sign-ups set new record

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act celebrate after the Supreme Court up held the law in the 6-3 vote at the Supreme Court in Washington June 25, 2015.

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Supporters of the Affordable Care Act celebrate after the Supreme Court up held the law in the 6-3 vote at the Supreme Court in Washington June 25, 2015.
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Reuters/Joshua Roberts

    The number of ObamaCare sign-ups during the first week of enrollment has doubled since last year, setting a new record high. President Donald Trump has previously made various cuts to subsidies and outreach funding and has shortened the enrollment period in an effort to “repeal” ObamaCare on his own. So far, his efforts seem to have been ineffective.

Obamacare sign-ups in the first few days of the open enrollment period this year have far outpaced those during the same period in previous years, and despite President Donald Trump’s efforts to diminish the enrollment period and slash outreach, the number of sign-ups during the period this year has set a new record.

The number of people signing up on HealthCare.gov in the first week of enrollment is “roughly double” what it was in previous years, a source told Politico. On November 1 alone, which was the first day of the enrollment period, 200,000 signed up for a 2018 plan, which itself was double the amount of first-day sign-ups last year according to The Hill.

The Department of Health and Human Services released its official numbers on Thursday, showing that 601,462 people signed up for plans between November 1 and November 4. Of those, 137,322 were new consumers.

While the department did not provide an exact comparison to last year’s pace of sign-ups over four days, the initial sign-ups did exceed the weekly pace of enrollment of the first month in 2016.

Trump has been railing against Obamacare since he was a presidential candidate

These high numbers come after efforts by the Trump administration to limit the number of people signing up, including shrinking the enrollment window and dramatically cutting funding for sign-up assistance and advertising for the program. The president has repeatedly said he wants to end Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, with or without Congress, and after several unsuccessful efforts to repeal the law this year, Trump said he is willing to do it himself.

“I just keep hearing repeal-replace, repeal-replace,” Trump said in October. “Well, we’re starting that process.”

Trump has also abandoned health care subsidies that would have allowed low-income patients to make out-of-pocket payments more easily and is reportedly planning an executive order that will scrap the individual mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act.

These and other steps initially led analysts at Standard & Poor’s to estimate that up to 1.6 million fewer Americans would sign up on HealthCare.gov than last year. In addition, despite Trump’s repeal of healthcare subsidies, which many believed would lead to premium spikes, around 80% of Obamacare recipients qualify for premium assistance under the program, meaning that the subsidy repeal would have little effect on the healthcare program, according to Politico.

Reportedly, state-based exchanges are also seeing higher-than-expected enrollment. While it remains unclear if this record pattern of enrollments will continue until the sign-up period closes on December 15, fears that Trump’s executive level cuts would decimate Obamacare appear to be largely unsubstantiated so far.