The Department of Health and Human Services is cutting back on promoting and funding efforts to enroll people in the shrinking Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, insurance marketplace.
BuzzFeed News obtained an email sent on Monday to health groups in Mississippi that HHS has previously coordinated with to push enrollment.
The email said that the agency would “not be supporting marketplace efforts by being out in the regions this year,” BuzzFeed News reported, noting that Vox first reported that officials would be pulling out of the events in Mississippi.
BuzzFeed News also learned from an “administrative source” that, in the past, all 10 of the department’s regional directors have taken part in events held in the states.
But in a statement issued by HHS on Wednesday, department press secretary Caitlin Oakley said:
Marketplace enrollment events are organized and implemented by outside groups with their own agendas, not HHS. These events may continue regardless of HHS participation. As Obamacare continues to collapse, HHS is carefully evaluating how we can best serve the American people who continue to be harmed by Obamacare’s failures.
Overall, the Trump administration is breaking with past federal assistance for Obamacare in the states, including cutting back resources for the upcoming open enrollment period, which begins on Nov. 1.
In August, HHS announced it was cutting its Obamacare enrollment advertising budget by 90%, from $100 million down to $10 million. The administration is also shutting down healthcare.gov every Sunday from 12 a.m. to 12 p.m. throughout the open enrollment period, according to BuzzFeed News.
Roy Mitchell, executive director of Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, told BuzzFeed that since 2013, HHS has sent representatives to the state to participate in various events to help coordinate enrollment efforts.
“We’re regrouping, we’re restructuring, we’re wondering if we should go direct to consumer rather than trying to work with the navigators,” Mitchell said in an interview. “In the absence of any kind of federal marketing, we’re working on a plan to go directly to consumers, exploring any kind of partnerships with the one carrier in the state.”
“Already, Democrats in Congress have raised alarm bells about the Trump administration’s moves, arguing that the White House is trying to sabotage the open enrollment period by decreasing resources for it in an effort to cause the individual markets to fail,” BuzzFeed News reported.