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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Promoting Open Enrollment Despite Trump Administration Sabotage

Recently, there’s been news coverage of the Trump Administration’s latest attempts to undercut enrollment in the exchanges by cutting many of the outreach, education, and enrollment activities that took place during prior open enrollment periods. But these are merely new tactics in the administration’s ongoing effort to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA). These tactics—some questionable in their legality—are unlikely to stop before the next open enrollment period.

Not only do these actions to suppress marketplace enrollment have the potential to reduce the number of people who gain coverage, they could lead also to less-balanced risk pools and higher costs for consumers. 

Administration actions to undermine enrollment part of a larger pattern

Recent activities build on an already clear pattern by the Trump Administration trying to undercut enrollment as a way to prove the ACA is “failing” despite evidence to the contrary. Here are a few recent examples of what the Trump Administration has been doing:

Outreach, education, and enrollment efforts all contribute to successful enrollment. We’ve learned from past open enrollment periods that consumers who receive in-person assistance are more than twice as likely to successfully enroll as those who tried enrolling online on their own. 

This assistance and outreach and education will only be more important this year. Here’s why:  

  • Consumers will have less time to enroll: The Trump Administration is cutting the next open enrollment period in half, from November 1 to December 15.
  • Negative and misleading rhetoric: Trump’s recurring comments that the law is “exploding” are meant to confuse people and make them not enroll
  • Consumer confusion about options and individual mandate: This confusion ranges from whether the law has been repealed by Congress to Trump’s first Executive Order that lead some people believe the individual mandate no longer existed to compel them to sign up for health coverage. 

So what can you do to counter administration efforts to suppress enrollment? 

It is critically important that, despite these efforts, consumers understand that coverage is still available and the next open enrollment period is still happening. The funding cuts are an indication that the administration is clearly aware that outreach, education, and enrollment assistance work to get people enrolled.

Advocates, grassroots organizers, assisters, and policymakers all have a role to play to fill this intentional gap and help to get out these key messages: 

  • Open enrollment begins November 1 and the deadline to enroll is December 15 
  • Plans and financial assistance are available
  • There is local in-person help through assisters, and that assistance is free and unbiased  

Getting out these messages can be done a number of ways, including taking part in partners’ outreach and education events, writing letters to the editor or op-eds about enrollment, educating policymakers so they use key messages with constituents, reaching out to local media outlets, and ramping up social media during open enrollment.