Half a million fewer Americans have enrolled in Obamacare through healthcare.gov since US President Donald Trump took office. This first ever decline in sign-ups follows the new administration’s cancelling of millions of dollars worth of advertising.
In the final days of Obamacare open enrollment, President Trump not only pulled advertising and stopped outreach efforts reminding Americans of the deadline to enroll, the president also signed an executive order weakening enforcement of the individual mandate.
Open enrollment for Obamacare ended on January 31, with 9.2 million Americans selecting plans through the website, a decline from the previous year when 9.6 million Americans signed up, according to a report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released on Friday.
The report from last year shows a total of 12.7 million plan selections through the Health Insurance Marketplaces, including 3.1 million Americans in the District of Columbia and 11 states that run their own exchanges.
Officials from the Trump administration blame the decrease in enrollments on the rise in premium costs and a decline in insurers offering plans through the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Citing the CMS report, which says that premiums increased 22 percent and the number of insurers offering plans dropped 28 percent, Matt Lloyd, spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, released a statement saying, “Obamacare has failed the American people, with one broken promise after another.”
Officials from the Obama administration blame the decrease in enrollment on the Trump administration cancelling up to five million dollars in advertising days before open enrollment ended.
Last October, former US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell predicted the final number of 2016 enrollments would be 13.8 million. That figure will not be released until March.
The Obama administration signed a nearly $75 million contract with a private advertising firm to promote open enrollment through Healthcare.gov. The final four to five million dollars of television and radio ads were pulled by the Trump administration in January.
Before the funds were pulled in December, the CMS said a record 6.4 million customers signed up, an increase of 400,000 from the previous year. On December 15, they also reported the largest day for open enrollment ever on HealthCare.gov, with 670,000 plans selected.
Since then, sign-ups declined from 686,708 people in the final week of open enrollment in 2015 to 376,260 people in the final two weeks in 2016.
The number of “window shopping” users, or unique visits to the site, also dropped significantly from 1,305,998 in the last week of open enrollment in 2015 to 406,327 in the last two weeks of open enrollment in 2016.