Insurers, Obama tout ACA open enrollment

Barack Obama on phone
Former President Barack Obama is helping to get the word out about the open enrollment period for Affordable Care Act health plans.

Since the Trump administration has scaled back outreach for the current Affordable Care Act open enrollment period, health insurers, advocacy groups and even former President Barack Obama are pitching in to get the word out.

Independence Blue Cross, for example, says its mobile education and retail center—dubbed Independence Express—will travel throughout southeastern Pennsylvania “to help consumers understand their options and enroll in the coverage that is right for them.”

RELATED: Former health officials, celebrities, Molina ex-CEO team up to promote open enrollment

One particularly memorable outreach effort comes from Florida Blue, which produced a Spanish-language video that features frolicking puppies while an announcer encourages ACA exchange signups.

"It's hard to resist puppies, right? Let's just be honest," said Penny Shaffer, the insurer's South Florida regional market president, according to NPR.

Also targeting the historically difficult-to-reach Hispanic population is the organization UnidosUS. Steven Lopez, associate director of health policy for the group, said its community-based organizations aim to be a “clarifying voice” amid confusion resulting from the Trump administration’s anti-ACA stance, Politico reports.

RELATED: Big gains in Latino coverage poised to slip during chaotic enrollment season

Indeed, the administration has cut ACA advertising by 90% and funding for the navigator program by about 40% relative to the last open enrollment period.

It’s also sent millions fewer email notices to Americans encouraging signups than had been sent in past years, and nixed language that highlights affordability or shopping around, according to a review of internal documents by The Washington Post.

The open enrollment period for 2018 began Wednesday and lasts through Dec. 15, making it about half as long as years prior.

President Barack Obama himself kicked off the start of open enrollment by posting a short video on Twitter that encouraged Americans to enroll and touted the law’s benefits.

"Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies can no longer charge you more just for being a woman, or having a preexisting condition—and that's a good thing," he said.

Trump hopes to tie individual mandate repeal to tax reform

While open enrollment for 2018 ACA exchange plans has begun, President Donald Trump is not giving up on the goal of rolling back portions of the healthcare law.

Trump tweeted Wednesday that he wants Republicans’ tax reform package to include a repeal of the “very unfair and unpopular” individual mandate.

GOP leaders in Congress did reveal key details about their new tax plan on Thursday, though it wasn’t clear whether any of its provisions addressed healthcare policy.

One Republican lawmaker, Rep. Chris Collins of New York, told CNN he is dubious that the final version will heed Trump’s call to repeal the individual mandate.

"I do not believe you are going to see anything healthcare related in this bill—at the eleventh hour, 59 minute, 58 second mark, I don't," he said.