While the future of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, hangs delicately in the balance, figures for the 2017 enrollment season show sign ups have fallen well below the expected numbers.
Between Nov. 1 and Jan. 31, 12.2 million people enrolled for health insurance via the Obamacare marketplaces, according to Department of Health and Human Services figures released on March 15. The enrollment figures fell by half-a-million people from the 2016 season, and well below the 13.8 million expected to enroll this year, Politico reports.
However, Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California and House Minority Leader pointed the blame at the new administration.
"As of December 24, 11.5 million Americans had signed up for coverage in the marketplaces – about 300,000 more than at the same time in the previous year," Pelosi said, notes the Washington Examiner. "But since taking power, Republicans have taken actions to push 2017 enrollment down."
According to Politico: "The Trump administration reversed plans to scrap phone calls and other forms of outreach to encourage sign-ups in the finals days of the enrollment period after the move sparked outcry from the law's supporters and health insurers. Officials said they were unable to pull back some HealthCare.gov radio and TV advertising that had been purchased by the Obama administration. HHS was able to cancel about $4 million to $5 million in ads."
"Canceling much of the advertising and creating confusion with a poorly worded exec order has taken a toll," Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, continued, notes the Examiner.
“We aren’t going to continue spending millions of taxpayers’ dollars promoting a failed government program,” a senior communications advisor for the Trump administration's HHS said, reports the Los Angeles Times.
“Obamacare is a disaster,” then-President-elect Trump told a GOP retreat in January. “It's going to explode like you've never seen an explosion. Nobody's going to be able to afford it.”
Meanwhile, Republican leaders are struggling to reconcile their own replacement for Obamacare.
A March Congressional Budget Office report released on March 13 estimated that 24 million Americans would lose health insurance by 2026 under the GOP bill to repeal and replace the ACA.
"We disagree strenuously with the report that was put out," Tom Price, secretary of the HHS Department, said, reports CNN.
Price's comments mirror those of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. "If you're looking to the CBO for accuracy, you're looking in the wrong place."