The Trump administration is announcing sharp cuts in programs promoting health care enrollment under the Affordable Care Act for next year and while it may hamper access to some important information, officials in Merced County don’t expect it will make a significant impact on enrollment numbers.
“It may reduce people’s awareness and pipeline set-up but I would be surprised if it has a dramatic impact,” said Scott Pettygrove, director of Merced County Human Services Agency.
In a call with reporters, Health and Human Services officials say advertising will be cut to $10 million for the 2018 open enrollment season. That’s down from $100 million for the 2017 sign-up season.
Funding for consumer helpers called “navigators” will also be cut, from $62.5 million for 2017, to about $36 million for next year.
It appears that this administrative action is attempting to bring the cost of the programs down, according to Pettygrove.
“The federal government is limiting money put into advertising and things of that sort,” Pettygrove said. “California’s effort does not appear to be diminished at this point.”
“People in the community know about us and know how to reach us,” he added. In the last couple years, around 30,000 more people in Merced County signed up for Covered California, the state-run health insurance exchange that complies with the ACA.
Pettygrove said and the number of people who are on Medi-Cal, the state’s health coverage plan for low-income families, about 51 percent, is “fairly significant and a good number of people are able to access it and are aware of it.”
When the Trump Administration put forward regulations like cutting the open enrollment period in half, California can maintain its policies of keeping a 12-week sign up period for open enrollment, said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health consumer advocacy coalition, in a statement.
Open enrollment will be from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31 in California, Pettygrove said.
Administration officials say the government hasn't gotten much bang for its buck as far as ACA advertising and the navigator program, with some enrollment centers signing up very few customers.
Democrats are likely to accuse the administration of trying to undermine the program, which President Donald Trump says is going to "implode."
“President Trump is seeking to sabotage the ACA with his own hand, first by injecting uncertainty into subsidy payments, shortening open enrollment, and now by deliberately and maliciously slashing funding for marketing and outreach efforts,” said “These Trump attacks serve no purpose other than to discourage enrollment and thus increase premiums unnecessarily for those who are covered.”