OIG to review Trump administration decision to pull ACA ads

A screengrab of an open enrollment ad from Healthcare.gov (www.youtube.com/user/HealthCareGov)

The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) will review the Trump administration’s decision to pull advertising for the 2017 open enrollment season of the Affordable Care Act.

The administration announced in late January that it would shut down an advertising campaign designed to encourage consumer sign-ups for individual marketplace plans. ACA advocacy groups decried the plan, as did the leading insurance industry trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans.

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In a letter (PDF) to Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Patty Murray of Washington, who requested the review, Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson promised to conduct fact finding on HHS decisions to halt or resume outreach efforts related to 2017 enrollments in the ACA marketplaces.

The senators cited contradictory rationales for the move from HHS spokespeople, including claims of cost savings with regard to ads for which the government had apparently already paid.

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“HHS’s move to halt outreach for ACA enrollment could contribute to weakening health care marketplaces and raising costs for hard working people across the country,” wrote Senator Warren, suggesting the move would hurt the marketplaces’ ability to attract the young and healthy consumers needed to keep premium costs down.

The announcement follows a turbulent week during which Republicans wound up pulling their proposed healthcare reform bill, the American Health Care Act, after it failed to win enough support in the House of Representatives.

Both during the lead up to the vote and in its wake, Democrats have expressed concerns about what they perceive as Republican efforts to undermine the ACA, a theme Senator Murray touched upon in her statement on the OIG investigation. 

“I am going to continue to hold Secretary [Tom] Price and Republicans accountable for any and all efforts to create Trumpcare by sabotaging our healthcare system and undermining families’ access to care they need,” she said.