The Affordable Care Act is on its last legs. At least, that’s the sense you get from reading this week’s headlines. NPR reports “Obamacare Sign-Ups Lag as Trump Slashes Funds for Enrollment Help,” while Politico solemnly concedes that “Trump may finally be undermining Obamacare.”
With two weeks left of this year’s open enrollment, it might seem that the Trump administration, through a combination of budget cuts and regulatory attacks, has dealt a final blow to the ACA, leaving millions of people uninsured, or at least unaware of their options.
There’s only one problem with this scenario — it’s false. Though it’s true that fewer people are enrolling in Obamacare plans, attributing this drop to “sabotage” from the administration is inaccurate. People are turning away from the exchanges now that there are other more affordable options to choose from.
Each year during open enrollment, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services releases weekly “snapshots,” making it easy to compare enrollment year to year. In 2017, almost 2.8 million people had signed up for plans on the HealthCare.gov site by week four of open enrollment. This year, just more than 2.4 million have enrolled—356,347 fewer than last year, to be exact. First-time enrollees number 588,131, down from 718,285 last year.
Obamacare supporters are quick to blame the Trump administration for this decrease in enrollment. Specifically, they claim that the drop in enrollments can be explained by cuts the administration has made to its funding for “navigators,” individuals and groups that help people sign up for exchange plans.