Democrats are accusing the Trump administration of "sabotage" when it comes to ObamaCare enrollment, but one observer thinks they're making a mistake.
Enrollment for 2018 begins next week (on November 1) and ends December 15. This means people who want or need health insurance for next year can sign up at Healthcare.gov or partnering websites such as ehealthinsurance.org. Regardless, Democrats have been vocal about the enrollment period, saying it's a shorter time frame than consumers had during the Obama administration.
"They're trying to sabotage the markets," Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) said earlier this month. "It's now all them, it is all them – one hundred percent."
In September, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) questioned reported plans by the Trump administration to do maintenance on Healthcare.gov five out of six Sundays during the 2018 enrollment period.
"It is unclear why the Trump administration needs so many more outages to maintain the site this year – after the enrollment period was shortened – and why the administration designated the first day of open enrollment season to conduct purportedly regular, non-urgent maintenance," Mr. Cummings wrote to then HHS Secretary Tom Price.
The "s" word (sabotage) has also been used in remarks about the Trump administration's budget cuts to "navigators" (people who helped enrollees find insurance plans and financial assistance). For the 2018 enrollment period, agents and brokers will be made available by Healthcare.gov.
"I think Democrats are really making a mistake politically because when you cry 'sabotage' you're sort of making a tacit admission that things aren't going well, and of course Democrats still deserve most of the credit for the Affordable Care Act being the law, becoming the law, and of course they stand against any changes to the law," says Hadley Heath Manning, director of policy at the Independent Women's Forum. "So I think they're making a mistake in sort of ceding the debate to Republicans that the Affordable Care Act isn't working well."
Meanwhile, Ed Haislmaier, senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation doesn't think the Trump administration is trying to sabotage enrollment.
"What the Trump administration is really doing is recognizing a reality that maybe some of the supporters of the ACA don't want to recognize," he explains. "The reality is that even under President Obama, the enrollment had kind of plateaued; the program had reached about as far as it was going to go. This was not some kind of big solution to healthcare – rather it's really just another niche program for lower-income, sicker people."
Haislmaier adds that the Obama administration wasn't able to persuade young, healthy people to sign up. He doubts the Trump administration is going to suddenly get them to sign up down the road.
"So it's not that the program is being sabotaged – it's just the reality is the program doesn't get much better than this, even if you're trying."