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You don’t need insurance nearly as much as he needs a chartered jet

The truncated open enrollment period for individual plans under the Affordable Care Act starts in a month, on November 1, and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is doing all he can to make sure his department will do absolutely nothing to let people know about it. HHS has already cut the open enrollment period in half, from 90 to 45 days, scheduling it to end December 15 as a fun surprise for people who in previous years may have waited until the end of the year to sign up. Instead of making ads promoting enrollment, the department’s using its promotion budget to make videos about “Families Burdened by Obamacare.” The budget for promoting open enrollment has been slashed by 90% and the administration is also cutting funds for in-person help with signing up. And since there’s a risk people might try to sign up for health insurance when they’re not at work, the signup website will be closed 12 am to 12 pm every Sunday, for “maintenance.” Shut up, you should take that time to go to church and pray you won’t get sick.

And now Price has told the 10 regional directors of HHS they’d better not get caught participating in any state events promoting open enrollment either, because Obamacare is a terrible failing program that must be pushed to fail by the people who are supposed to make it work. Buzzfeed’s Kate Nocera and Paul McLeod got hold of an email to Mississippi health advocates detailing the move, and spoke to a source inside the administration about the decision to pull support from state events, which regional administrators had attended the last three years when the government still did its job. The email confirmed that HHS would “not be supporting marketplace efforts by being out in the regions this year,” too bad, so sad:

“I will certainly miss the interaction and an opportunity to share departmental updates and positions, even though they have changed drastically,” wrote Deric Gilliard, a public affairs specialist from HHS’s regional Atlanta office. “My apologies for taking so long to provide a definitive answer. If someone would like to discuss further, please feel free to call me. All the best in your endeavors.”

But don’t worry! HHS has a perfectly reasonable explanation for why the department won’t be participating in state events promoting ACA signups: The Trump administration doesn’t want to get all mixed up with people who think the ACA is worthwhile, as HHS press secretary Caitlin Oakley explains in this incredible statement that sounds like it’s from a political campaign, not a government agency. (Silly us — in the Trump era, government agencies are a political campaign.)

Marketplace enrollment events are organized and implemented by outside groups with their own agendas, not HHS. These events may continue regardless of HHS participation.

Obamacare has never lived up to enrollment expectations despite the previous administration’s best efforts. The American people know a bad deal when they see one and many won’t be convinced to sign up for ‘Washington-knows-best’ health coverage that they can’t afford. For the upcoming enrollment period, Americans are being hit with another round of double-digit premium hikes and nearly half of our nation’s counties are facing Obamacare monopolies. As Obamacare continues to collapse, HHS is carefully evaluating how we can best serve the American people who continue to be harmed by Obamacare’s failures.

Promote open enrollment? Why on earth would we do that? We want nothing to do with it, although technically it’s our “job.”

Oh, and those premium increases and coverage gaps Oakley complains about? As the Congressional Budget Office has pointed out, those are mostly due to insurance companies’ uncertainty over what new fuckery the Trump administration will pull — like not meeting subsidy payments, or deliberate attempts to suppress enrollment like her boss is pulling.

That “sorry, can’t help you” email from Gilliard was a definite disappointment to Roy Mitchell, executive director of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, who said that his group and others will now have to cancel a number of pre-enrollment meetings with ACA navigators and other stakeholders that had been scheduled for early October, because if the people who run the program don’t come to help provide information as they had in previous years, what’s the point?

“We’re regrouping, we’re restructuring, we’re wondering if we should go direct to consumer rather than trying to work with the navigators,” he said in an interview. “In the absence of any kind of federal marketing, we’re working on a plan to go directly to consumers, exploring any kind of partnerships with the one carrier in the state.”

In a notice informing participants they would be canceling the events, Mitchell said HHS’s “destructive actions will ultimately reduce enrollment, increase costs and drive up the uninsured rate in Mississippi.”

“I didn’t call it sabotage,” Mitchell told BuzzFeed News. “But that’s what it is.”

Welcome to “governing” under the New Cruelty: The Affordable Care Act is still the law, and the Trumpers haven’t managed to repeal that law, but the heads of HHS see no reason to do their jobs, because they don’t wanna. Is America Great Again yet?

[Buzzfeed / New York]

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