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President Donald Trump has taken a bold step to wreck the Affordable Care Act, the healthcare law better known as Obamacare.
According to Politico’s Paul Demko, the new administration has pulled all advertisements for Healthcare.gov and has frozen efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services to encourage people to sign up for plans through the ACA.
The pulling of ads includes those that have already been paid for and placed, according to Politico. For the 2015-2016 open-enrollment period, HHS spent about $35 million on ads encouraging people to sign up.
Americans without health insurance through their employer or Medicare or Medicaid can sign up for plans through the ACA’s public exchanges through January 31 for a 2017 plan.
Typically, the run-up to deadlines is accompanied by a significant uptick in sign-ups. As Politico reported, this is especially true for young people, who are needed to balance the risk in the individual market pools.
Trump has maintained that the law will “collapse on its own.” But projections from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office indicate that the number of people enrolled will continue to increase and eventually stabilize, not go into the “death spiral” as Republicans predicted.
The end of the open-enrollment period is crucial because the share of total enrollees who are ages 18 to 34 increases substantially during that time.
This is important because the pools in some states have been filled with an outsize number of older and sicker people over the past few years, causing many large insurers to lose money on the exchanges.
In turn, some insurers have left the exchanges in some states, exacerbating cost increases. While some states have mitigated these issues by expanding Medicaid and other provisions, it is crucial for the stability of the exchanges to get young people to sign up.
According to a report from The Huffington Post, an HHS official said the pulled ad buy was worth about $5 million.
If the Trump administration’s move causes fewer young people to join the exchanges this year, the problems that GOP lawmakers have predicted might come to pass.
It is unclear just whether the scaling back has affected the law so far because the HHS under Trump has also scaled back its communication about Obamacare.
The HHS Twitter account has not mentioned the ACA deadline – after tweeting about it multiple times a day – since a tweet on January 19, the day before Trump’s inauguration.
It is unclear how many Americans have signed up for care since the department has halted communications and stopped issuing its typically biweekly enrollment update since the Trump administration took office. The most recent update, on January 10, pegged enrollments through the ACA’s provisions at 11.54 million.
Andy Slavitt, a former director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, tweeted his displeasure with the move, saying it was “misguided actions which purposely hurt ACA consumers.”
— Andy Slavitt (@ASlavitt) January 27, 2017
Trump has long been opposed to the ACA, calling it a “disaster” and promising to repeal and replace it.
Republican lawmakers kicked off the repeal of the law by advancing a budget resolution through the House and Senate that directs committees to draft a replacement bill using budget reconciliation.