Trump Sabotage of Obamacare a Big Success: Enrollment Down By a Half Million or More

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The signup period for Obamacare is over, and total enrollment fell short of last year. The Washington Post reports the details:

The lower total…marks a striking turnabout from the trend as the Obama administration neared its end — when sign-ups for coverage under the law were running steadily ahead of a year ago.

The volume plummeted, in particular, during the final week of the three-month enrollment season — falling from nearly 700,000 in 2016 to just over 375,000. That last week traditionally is a peak time when eligible customers race to get ACA health plans, most of them with federal subsidies. This time, however, the Trump White House directed federal health officials to halt all advertising and other enrollment-outreach activities for the last six days of the sign-up period.

Based on data from Charles Gaba, here’s what enrollment looked like throughout the entire signup period:

Signups were running a bit ahead of 2016 during the entire open enrollment period, but then Trump took office. Republicans began talking about repealing Obamacare, Trump signed an executive order telling agencies to do whatever they could to throw sand in the gears, and outreach efforts were halted. The result was a substantial downturn in the second half of January. My estimate is that all these antics lowered enrollment by about 600,000. That’s 600,000 people who now have no medical coverage and run the risk of bankruptcy if anything serious goes wrong. Nice work, folks.

For additional evidence on this score, Charles Gaba has more. He notes that state exchanges have their own marketing and outreach programs, so they were less affected by Trump’s sabotage efforts. Sure enough, he finds that state exchanges ended up higher than last year by 2 percent or more, while the federal exchange ended up 4.7 percent lower than last year. He’s got all the details here.

UPDATE: Gaba sends along the following chart to illustrate his point. As you can see, state exchange enrollment in the final week was very similar to last year, and that’s without final enrollment figures. However, federal exchange enrollment was far lower than 2016 in the final week. The most likely explanation is that advertising and outreach for the federal exchange largely ceased starting on January 23.

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