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Trump Makes Signing Up For Obamacare Harder, How's That For Terrific Timing?
Before applying, the patient has to get an ultrasound. Why not?
The Senate's preparing to vote today on a motion to proceed to debate some form of killing the Affordable Care Act. Nobody knows exactly what the bill is, but they have to vote NOW! It's such an emergency priority that John McCain's office announced late last night he would fly back to Washington less than a week after being diagnosed with brain cancer so he could help the Senate move forward on ending healthcare for over 20 million other Americans. And just to make sure everyone knows that Obamacare is collapsing all on its own, the Trump administration is helping the process along, scrapping a program that helped people in 18 cities sign up for the ACA and choose an insurance plan, and reducing the annual fall open enrollment period from 90 to 45 days. No one will need to sign up, since Obamacare is dead, remember?
The program had brought workers into libraries, neighborhoods, and businesses to assist people with signing up for coverage, and wouldn't you know it, some people are already acting as if it's some kind of big deal, because they simply haven't gotten the message that nobody wants Obamacare anymore:
Community groups say the move, announced to them by contractors last week, will make it even more difficult to enroll the uninsured and help people already covered re-enroll or shop for a new policy. That's already a concern because of consumer confusion stemming from the political wrangling in Washington and a shorter enrollment period.
Why, you'd almost think creating confusion and uncertainty was part of the plan. Especially if you were a cynical sort of person who'd also noticed that the Department of Health and Human Services, which is supposed to administer the ACA by law, is using funds earmarked for outreach and awareness of enrollment to produce videos arguing that the ACA hurts people.
But wait! There's more! The Open Enrollment period for coverage in 2018 has been slashed in half as well; the signup period this fall will last just 45 days, starting November 1 and ending December 15. Won't that be a funny surprise for people who think they have until the end of the year?
This is just the latest effort by the administration to beat up the ACA and leave it bleeding in an alley before Congress kills it; back in January, just after Trump took office, the administration cancelled ads -- many of which had already been paid for -- to remind the public of the end of the sign-up period. After intense public criticism and complaints from Congress, that decision was reversed within days. The administration has also been responsible for much of the uncertainty and instability in the insurance market, particularly through crappy communication with insurance companies, and especially by threatening not to pay subsidies needed to keep policy prices lower.
"There's a clear pattern of the administration trying to undermine and sabotage the Affordable Care Act," said Elizabeth Hagan, associate director of coverage initiatives for the liberal advocacy group Families USA. "It's not letting the law fail, it's making the law fail."
Two Virginia-based companies, Cognosante and CSRA, have had their contracts to help people sign up for ACA coverage terminated after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) chose not to renew contracts for a final, optional year. So it's all perfectly legal, according to an email to the Associated Press from CMS spokesperson Jane Norris:
"These contracts were intended to help CMS provide temporary, in-person enrollment support during the early years" of the exchanges, Norris said. Other federally funded help with enrollment will continue, she said, including a year-round call center and grant-funded navigator programs. The existing program is "robust" and "we have the on-the-ground resources necessary" in key cities, Norris said.
Oh, sure, maybe community groups in the affected cities were expecting the contracts to be renewed, but they appear unaware that elections have consequences and Obamacare is dead. It's dead, you know. The president said so himself. Some people just aren't able to accept reality even when they see the knife sticking out of Obamacare's back:
"It has our heads spinning about how to meet the needs in communities," said Inna Rubin of United Way of Metro Chicago, who helps run an Illinois health access coalition [...]
In Illinois, CSRA hired about a dozen enrollment workers to supplement a small enrollment workforce already in the state, Rubin said. The company operated a storefront enrollment center in a Chicago neighborhood from November through April.
"It was a large room in a retail strip mall near public transit with stations set up where people could come in and sit down" with an enrollment worker, Rubin said.
While the help provided by the two companies resulted in a relatively small portion of ACA signups, about 1 percent of total enrollment nationwide, several advocates said they focused on a target population of healthier young adults needed to help keep the individual market stable. Can't imagine why the administration would want fewer of those folks signing up, nope.
Maybe United Way and other organizations could learn to tell people to get a damn job and pull their weight, huh? And if insurance is still too expensive, which it will be if the Republicans kill off the ACA, then obviously more people will be incentivized to become investment bankers, and everything will be fine.
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[ AP/CNBC ]