Obamacare's enrollment assistance program spent $22 million to enroll 14,500 people in tax-subsidized coverage, a small fraction of the 11 million people who enrolled in the health plans, according to an investigation by the Washington Free Beacon.
The Trump administration announced in July that it did not renew the contracts with groups who helped enroll people in coverage called Cognosante LLC and CSRA Inc., which operated enrollment stations in 19 cities across the country. According to the report, the program spent more than $1,500 a person for helping people with signing up.
Democrats sent a letter to the administration last week saying they were concerned about the assistance program being cut off, particularly because the enrollment period was cut in half under the Trump administration, to 45 days. The sign-up period begins in mid-November.
The Trump administration has been critical of Obamacare, and President Trump has been urging Republicans to revisit their long-stated intent to repeal and replace the law. Efforts in the Senate failed in July, and some lawmakers have vowed to help stabilize the exchanges when they return from their August recess. Because of the uncertainty over the future of the law and a lack of robust enrollment, insurers have fled the exchanges and many of them are planning double-digit increases on unsubsidized premiums.
Democrats have used those outcomes as examples of Republican and Trump sabotage of the law, while Republicans have countered that the trends began before Trump became president and say the law isn't working.
The Trump administration pointed to the report from the right-leaning Free Beacon as evidence of problems with Obamacare. The story also noted that enrollment had dropped by 1.9 million by the third month premiums were due, a trend that has occurred in the past. Defenders of the law say that attrition is normal as people change life circumstances, such as getting a job that has coverage, while critics say it's additional evidence of the law's dysfunction and say people were unable to afford their plans."Obamacare failed to create a thriving, competitive market that offers the kind of coverage people want to buy at prices they can afford," Matt Lloyd, pricipal deputy assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, said in an email. "On Obamacare's exchanges premiums continue to surge, insurers continue to abandon wide swaths of the country and choices continue to vanish – an unfortunate reality for the American people who are required to buy Washington-approved health insurance or pay a fine."
Enrollment in the exchanges has been lower than projected by the Congressional Budget Office. The office had projected that more than 24 million people would sign up for the exchanges, but 11 million have done so. Roughly half of the shortfall can be attributed to fewer employers putting people on plans than anticipated, but officials also have acknowledged that not enough people between the ages of 27 to 34, or healthier enrollees, have signed up.