In President Trump's budget plan, proposed $1.6 trillion reductions to Medicaid have taken center stage. But tucked into the raft of health care cuts is something that's attracted less attention: cuts for healthcare.gov, the website where about 10 million Americans go to shop for insurance.
Last year, President Obama thought healthcare.gov needed $2.1 billion to run smoothly. This year, Trump thinks it just needs $1.7 billion.
“So that means 20 percent less funding for things including helping people enroll, running healthcare.gov, outreach and marketing, running the call center,” said Aviva Aron-Dine, a former Health and Human Services senior adviser during the Obama administration.
To Aron-Dine, it seems odd to propose a 20 percent haircut when the Trump administration has already made changes that arguably call for more resources, like tightening up the enrollment period and beefing up eligibility requirements. But ultimately, she said, she's not surprised.
“We've seen a consistent pattern from the administration of actively undermining the marketplaces, and not doing what needs to be done to make the markets work,” Aron-Dine said.
One of Trump's first moves in office was relaxing the mandate to have insurance. Then the administration temporarily pulled ads urging people to sign up for coverage. And just this week, officials pushed off a decision on subsidies likely forcing insurers to jack up premiums.
Jessica Altman, chief of staff at the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, said if these proposed cuts to healthcare.gov go through, it'll just make it that much harder for the millions who use the site to get coverage.
“It will be more difficult to navigate,” Altman said. “There will be more hoops for consumers to jump through to get access to that insurance, or the system won't work as well as it needs to.”
Altman said everybody remembers the fiasco when the site first rolled out, giving consumers fits. The point, Altman said, is to get as many people insured as possible. And, that’s something Trump’s budget doesn’t do.
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“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VABEFORE YOU GO