Obamacare supporters are scrambling to fill the nearly $80 million void in television and radio advertisements left by the Trump administration's decision to cut spending on getting people to sign up for health insurance this fall.
Progressive groups, supporters of the health law, and Democrats are gathering funds and volunteers to promote this year's open enrollment period, the 45 days when most individual health insurance plans will be sold. They expect to fall far short of what was spent in previous enrollment periods and worry that millions of Americans will be left without insurance as a result.
"There is no way these groups will ever be able to make up for what the government is not doing," Lori Lodes, who ran open enrollment outreach for the Obama administration during the open enrollment periods for 2015 and 2016 coverage, told me recently.
One Democratic super PAC, the Democratic Coalition, announced it has raised $7,000 for an advertising campaign for open enrollment so far but hopes to raise more in the coming weeks. A spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee told me it will direct volunteers to local projects to promote open enrollment but doesn't currently have funds dedicated to television or radio ads. Democrats in Congress plan to host events leading up to and during open enrollment as well.
Groups like Families USA that have long promoted open enrollment told me the announcement of the cuts to promotion spending caught them by surprise. They're reaching out to donors in hopes of helping navigators, the groups paid to give in-person assistance to those trying to buy insurance who also saw a funding cut this year.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced Aug. 31 it would cut its promotional budget for the upcoming open enrollment period to $10 million, from $88.8 million the previous year. The HHS also announced it would cut navigator grants to $36.8 million, down from $62.5 million the previous year.
An agency spokeswoman said there's little evidence the money was effective in encouraging people to buy insurance. After five years of Affordable Care Act promotion, most people who would sign up are already aware of the health law's benefits, Caitlin Oakley, a spokeswoman for the HHS, said Aug. 31.
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