Trump Administration Limits Hours Families Can Enroll In Coverage… Again
This is a big problem. Sunday mornings are one of the most popular times to sign up for health insurance during open enrollment.
As you can imagine, families wake up with their morning coffee (or if they live on the West Coast, sit down with their morning coffee or mid-day lunch) and sign up for their health insurance. The planned shutdown will stop many people from taking advantage of their one day off a week.
This year, instead of having every Sunday until January 31st to enroll, families will have only limited hours on Sunday, and will also have only the Sundays between November 1st and December 15th, 2017 to enroll. Given a shortened open enrollment period and planned service outages, it is likely that many people will find it hard to enroll before the new deadline.
Between this bizarre choice for maintenance times, the slashing of the advertising and outreach budgets, and HHS’s previous announcement of a shortened enrollment period this year, there will be families who struggle to get covered this year and some who may not manage to get enrolled. Making it harder for people to sign up for heal insurance is a political decision, not in any way part of the ACA (ObamaCare).
This move is not only troublesome because of logistics, but it is troubling in the phrasing of its announcement as well.
The announcement very misleadingly claimed that,
“downtime is planned for the lowest-traffic time periods on HealthCare.gov including Sunday evenings and overnight.”
This is not true.
Sundays have relatively low traffic, but they also have one of the highest conversion rates. In other words, the Sunday hours being eliminated are the ones with the highest number of visitors completing financial transactions and enrolling in plans. This is when most business is done. HealthCare.Gov would have this data, and HHS would know this, and therefore one could argue that their statement is purposefully misleading.
Further, one could argue you like Andy Slavitt, former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said it well enough:
“this is only the latest move by the administration to try and prevent Americans from signing up for health insurance on Obamacare’s exchanges, either by curtailing outreach or making the markets to harder to access. Last month, news broke that the Department of Health and Human Services would cut Obamacare’s ad budget by 90 percent while slashing spending on “navigators” who help people sign up for insurance by 40 percent. Any one of these moves might not prove crippling to the law. But collectively, you can see how they might begin to add up.”
Downtime during true low-traffic and low-enrollment periods, such as between 12am – 4am Saturday morning, would be much more appropriate in general (although December 15th, the last day of open enrollment is on a Friday, so on that day this would not make sense).
Putting all this together, we like Andy Slavitt, can really conclude nothing other than This is yet another attempt to break ObamaCare by Republicans.