The Trump administration plans to make significant cuts to the budget for advertising for the Affordable Care Act, which is also known as Obamacare.
Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services stated that the budget for ads on television, radio and online would drop by 90 percent, from $100 million to $10 million, Vox reported.
Approximately 40 percent of the budget spent on in-person support for enrollment in plans will also be cut. This money is paid to nonprofits that help people sign up for a health plan on the ACA's marketplace.
The three officials who briefed journalists on the budget cuts requested anonymity.
"People are aware of Obamacare and the exchanges, they are aware they can sign up," one of the HHS officials said, according to Vox. "The Obama administration doubled spending on advertising and saw a 5 percent decline in enrollment. Despite a doubled budget, there are diminishing returns."
Little research has been done on the impact of advertising, but a 2017 study showed that counties with higher levels of local advertising saw their uninsured rates drop more than counties with less advertising when Obamacare was launched.
"We haven't done a specific study related to the public awareness of the program," another HHS official added. "I think most Americans are aware of the program at this point in time."
But Elizabeth Hagan, an associate director at Families USA, disagrees.
"This is actually a time when we need more assistance because of the confusion around what the future of the ACA is, whether the mandate is being enforced, what plan options are," Hagan said.
Funding will be reduced to nonprofits that have failed to meet their sign-up goals, bur organizations that have surpassed their targets will not get a funding increase.
Hagan said this is an unfair way to measure the impact of the nonprofits.
"They may be helping one consumer with an application but they're letting their families know, and letting their friends know," she added.
Timothy Jost, a consumer advocate at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, suggested the planned cuts would undermine the ACA system.
"The surest way to kill the exchanges is to keep them a secret," Jost told Vox. "Sick people will find them, but getting younger and healthier people enrolled is the problem."
A bipartisan proposal released by governors on Aug. 31 aims to retain the ACA's individual mandate, under which anyone who fails to purchase a health care plan can be fined, until a suitable replacement for the ACA is found.
"For the time being it is perhaps the most important incentive for healthy people to enroll in coverage," Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Democratic Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper wrote in a joint letter to Congress, according to The Hill. "Until Congress comes up with a better solution -- or states request waivers to implement a workable alternative -- the individual mandate is necessary to keep markets stable in the short term."
Sources: Vox, The Hill / Featured Image: Shealah Craighead/The White House/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Pete Souza/The White House/Wikimedia Commons, Lorie Shaull/Wikimedia Commons