This year’s open enrollment period for ACA/Obamacare is from November 1, 2017 to December 15, 2017. That is a mere six weeks, compared to the three-month enrollment period available in all previous ACA years. Anyone — in any state — needing to sign up for ACA/Obamacare for 2018 needs to pay attention to the deadline. The Trump administration has:
- Cut the enrollment period in half
- Slashed advertising and outreach by 90%
- Chopped by 41% the dollars allocated to non-governmental groups who reach out to likely ACA enrollees
- Severely cut the number of ACA navigators available to help people enroll
- Is shutting down healthcare.gov “for maintenance” for 12 hours during all but one Sunday in the upcoming open enrollment season. Kaiser Health News reports that not only will the shutdowns occur from 12 a.m. to 12 p.m. ET every Sunday except December 10, but the Department of Health and Human Services will also shut down healthcare.gov overnight on the first day of open enrollment, November 1.
There’s only one way to describe these tactics: sabotage.
Having failed to kill ACA/Obamacare legislatively [more than 50 times], the Trump administration has embarked on a cynical scheme to undermine the program by making it harder to enroll. It’s a nasty plan that is gratuitously mean and vengeful. It in no way reflects what people actually want: A Pew Research poll shows that favorable views of ACA/Obamacare hit a new high in 2017. [It’s telling, isn’t it, that, essentially, all it took for ACA/Obamacare to reach its highest approval rating was for Barack Obama to leave office.]
People want ACA/Obamacare to stay. People who don’t get health insurance through their employers want it through the ACA’s state exchanges. And even the 56% of Americans who get their health insurance via work—want the provisions enacted in the Affordable Care Act [coverage for pre-existing conditions, essential health benefits, no lifetime limits, kids on the plan until age 26, etc.] Whether they admit it or not. Whether or not they realize that the Affordable Care Act [ACA] IS Obamacare. Even if they live in Mitch McConnell-land [Kentucky], where Obama-hating state legislators renamed ACA “Kynect Care” just so that people getting desirable Obamacare benefits would think that they were getting something else. [In 2016, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin killed Kynect Care, not because it wasn’t working, but because it was working too well. Kentuckians now get their health insurance via healthcare.gov.]
Making enrollment more difficult is a Republican dirty trick.
Potentially hundreds of thousands of people could wake up in January—having waited until close to the longer deadline they thought was in effect—to find that they’ve missed their chance to get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Thousands more, encountering long waits on the phone, a shut-down healthcare.gov on the Sunday they chose to do their enrollment, or being assisted by less experienced, less informed navigators, may just give up out of frustration. And that’s exactly what the Trump administration and its Congressional-Republican enablers are hoping will happen. They want enrollment to be a hassle. They want people to miss the deadline. They are eager for people to quit the enrollment process because it’s slow and frustrating. Their goal is to shrink enrollment and thereby initiate the long-hoped for Obamacare death spiral, in which the program self-destructs.
These tactics dovetail beautifully with what many Republican legislators want — while obviating the need for them to actually vote on repeal. Newly resigned Director of Health and Human Services Tom Price, who is most certainly one of the plotters behind this Obamacare-sinking plan, can now just sit back and watch his hoped-for disaster unfold, while not having to take responsibility for it. It’s a perfect storm, if you are a soulless Republican meanie who enjoys full health insurance coverage paid for by the government.
It is hard to imagine a more perverse strategy.
We don’t want repeal/replace. We like the provisions of ACA/Obamacare. People have called, written, facebooked, texted, IM’d, sat-in, demonstrated, marched, protested, pleaded, and campaigned—again and again—to prevent the derailment of a program—imperfect as it may be in some of its provisions—that has made healthcare insurance possible for tens of millions who didn’t have it before, and that has dramatically improved coverage for people already insured through their employers. These are the people Congressional representatives and Senators are supposed to be representing. Instead, they are ignoring the human needs in their districts, elevating their own political needs, and kowtowing to financial blackmail by their fat-cat campaign donors.
This is sick.
Please remind everyone you know that ACA enrollment is different this year. The clock is ticking. Those of us who have health insurance cannot be complacent. If Republicans succeed in undermining ACA/Obamacare with this irresponsible, immature, immoral trickery, we will all suffer.