The annual enrollment period is underway for the Affordable Care Act, but President Donald Trump has sabotaged his predecessor’s health care law by taking away advertising and publicity, which has led to millions failing to enroll and placing their well-being in peril.
A new analysis from the Center for American Progress finds that in the absence of the Trump administration’s widespread sabotage of the ACA, 12.2 million Americans would otherwise have enrolled in the marketplace in 2018, holding steady from 2017.
CAP Health Economist Emily Gee, who calculated annual enrollment projections at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a former economist for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation under the Obama administration, calculated the predictions.
Also, despite projecting growth in each of the past four years, HHS has not announced any projection for 2018 open enrollment.
“Without the Trump administration’s blatant efforts to make it harder for Americans to obtain health insurance, CAP’s analysis shows that open enrollment would remain steady this year at about 12.2 million enrollees,” Gee said. “Instead, people we could otherwise count on to sign up could be left in the cold and without the proper support and details on how to enroll.”
CAP developed an estimate of potential 2018 enrollment by using data from 2016 and 2017 and by adopting the framework that HHS used for its prior marketplace projections.
In the absence of sabotage, CAP projects that a total of 12.2 million people would have selected plans for 2018, consisting of about 8.1 million re-enrollees and 4.1 million new enrollees.
CAP believes this is a conservative estimate given that within days of Trump taking office, the new administration cut off HealthCare.gov advertising and signaled its intent to repeal the ACA.
Midway through last year’s open enrollment period, enrollment was surpassing the previous year’s levels.
The Trump administration’s active steps to undermine the law seem likely to depress enrollment in 2018. These sabotage efforts include cutting the duration of the open enrollment period in half; slashing the marketplace advertising budget by 90 percent, despite the proven effectiveness of outreach and television advertising in getting people covered; and cutting funding to navigator groups that provide valuable in-person assistance to consumers in need of coverage, CAP officials said.
The ACA marketplaces’ fifth open-enrollment period, during which people can sign up for health insurance coverage for 2018, began Nov. 1 and ends in most states on Dec. 15.
Locally, the DC Health Link has been ramping up efforts to enroll residents. In Maryland, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker urged residents who are uninsured or underinsured to take advantage of the enrollment period.
“This is an extraordinary time. Over the last several months, we have seen numerous attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act,” Baker said in a news release. “The recent Executive Order threatens the stability of the marketplace and may cause residents with affordable health coverage to lose their tax credits and eligibility for cost sharing reductions.”
While the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land, with each attempt to attack the Affordable Care Act, Baker said everyone has come to see how vital it is to have access to health care now.
“Without coverage, there is no clear pathway to prevention, wellness and improving health outcomes,” Baker said. “I urge all Prince Georgians who are not covered, please get coverage now. This is the time.”
Since the start of the Affordable Care Act in 2013, Prince George’s County has reduced the uninsured rate from approximately 15 percent to slightly below 9 percent and it’s estimated that as many as 78,000 residents remain uninsured.
While many of the uninsured are not eligible to enroll in the State’s insurance marketplace, due to their immigration status, there are an estimated 30,000 or more residents who likely are eligible for a plan that fits their budget and meets their needs.
“The lack of adequate health coverage is one of the key social determinants of health,” said Gloria Brown Burnett, the director of the Prince George’s County Department of Social Services. “The opportunity to remove this barrier significantly enhances residents’ ability to improve their health status.
“The Department of Social Services recognizes how important it is to help strengthen our families, and to do that, barriers must be removed,” she said.