Democrats and advocacy groups are calling President Trump's call to cut 90 percent of Obamacare ad funding sabotage.
The administration announced Thursday the decision to provide only $10 million for ads for 2018's open enrollment starting this November, a 90 percent decline from the $100 million devoted last year. Critics say that the decision, coupled with a 39 percent cut to organizations that sign up Obamacare enrollees, amounts to sabotage of the healthcare law.
"The Trump administration is deliberately attempting to sabotage our health care system. When the number of people with health insurance declines and costs skyrocket, the American people will know who's to blame," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in a statement.
"Republicans should be shoring up markets, not denying consumers their right to full information about health plans and yanking away tens of millions of dollars of expected funding from Navigators, just two months before open enrollment begins," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Other Democrats added that the move to cut outreach amounts to trying to deliberately undermine the law.
The anger from Democrats comes as the Senate hopes to create a bipartisan plan to stabilize Obamacare's markets next year. The Senate expects to take up work on this plan when it returns next week.
Activist groups supporting Obamacare weren't surprised by the decision to cut funding, pointing to several statements from President Trump that he wants to let Obamacare implode.
"Republicans have been working for months to repeal healthcare, but now we see how far they will go to take healthcare away from people," according to a statement from the group Protect Our Care.
Others pointed out that Trump has sought to undermine Obamacare's marketplaces for months by not committing to funding the law's cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers for 2018. The payments reimburse insurer subsidies to low-income Obamacare customers to help handle out-of-pocket costs.
Independent estimates have shown that if Trump doesn't make the payments next year, then premiums could rise an additional 19 percent.
"This callous funding cut is an obvious attempt to continue sabotaging the marketplaces to hurt a life-saving law that the American people overwhelmingly support bipartisan action to improve," said Andrew Bates, spokesman for the liberal super PAC American Bridge 21st Century.
The Trump administration defended the moves to say that it is putting money into more effective areas of outreach. It noted that the Obama administration spent $100 million on ads last year but saw no big effect on enrollment.
However, a study from the journal Health Affairs found that counties exposed to higher quantities of TV ads from Obamacare's first open enrollment had larger reductions in their uninsured rates than other counties with fewer TV ads.
The Trump administration said that a lot of ads are not as needed because this will be Obamacare's fifth open enrollment and the public is already mostly aware of the law. However, an official with Health and Human Services conceded on a call with reporters that it did not conduct any recent studies to confirm the heightened awareness.