One would never know it, but this week started the open enrollment period for insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. In the past, there was plenty of advance-word advertising, and outreach to notify people.
Not this year. The Trump administration has not only lopped the enrollment period in half, from 90 days to 45, but has also dramatically reduced advertising and outreach efforts. Indeed, the federal government reportedly won’t run any TV spots to promote this enrollment period.
The intent there is obvious: Limit knowledge about the enrollment in the hopes of dampening sign-ups. Reducing the number of people in the insurance pools puts upward pressure on premiums, further destabilizing those markets. (In Massachusetts, the enrollment period to buy insurance on the Health Connector will not be truncated, but rather will run through Jan. 23 and be supported by ads.)
One group stepping into the breach is Get America Covered, which was started by two former federal employees who once worked promoting the health law. Cofounder Lori Lodes says she and Joshua Peck started their organization when it became clear that the Trump administration planned to slash its efforts dramatically, reducing the promotion and outreach effort from $100 million to about $10 million.
“We will never be able to do enough to match what they aren’t doing, but our goal is to fill in the gaps,” she says. Their first priority is targeted digital ads, but if Get America can raise more money, they would like to run TV spots as well.
Another such effort is Keep the ACA Running, an Internet campaign organized by the Democratic Coalition Against Trump. Nate Lerner, who cofounded the progressive political action committee, has been working with the Resistance Media Collective, a group of graphic, video, animation, and music professionals, to produce health insurance enrollment information. The hope is that “people will share it and push it out to the people they know on social media,” he says.
In Maine, meanwhile, US Representative Chellie Pingree has cut a public service announcement, which is running on Maine stations, to let people know about the enrollment and direct them to the federal website. That’s an effort congressional Obamacare supporters should emulate. And indeed, Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren both plan to make educational efforts of their own, according to spokespeople.
This effort shouldn’t be limited just to public officials or organized groups. Both Get America Covered and Keep the ACA Running have information on their website about the enrollment period that any concerned citizen can easily tweet, post, e-mail, or distribute.
None of this should be necessary. Sadly, in the time of Trump, it is. As noted by Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, the results of this enrollment period will influence the debate over the laws future. So those who support the Affordable Care Act should do everything they can to spread the word and help make this enrollment effort a success.