President Trump’s effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act by defunding and rescinding its mandates piece-by-piece is no secret. But the White House did attempt to keep the latest open enrollment period, which started on Nov. 1, a kind of secret from uninsured citizens, by deliberately not acknowledging that it was happening to prevent people from signing up.
Nearly a week into open enrollment, though, it seems like the White House’s plan has been foiled by a coordinated campaign of activists, celebrities, and Democratic lawmakers. On Monday, an administration official told The Hill that a record number of people had purchased health plans, despite drastic cuts in outreach funding. More than 200,000 reportedly bought plans on the first day of enrollment alone.
For comparison, on the same day last year, 100,000 people signed up to purchase health care coverage. In the first two weeks of November 2016, more than 1 million people bought insurance, and by the end of open enrollment, which is half as long this year, more than 12 million people were covered.
Web traffic to HealthCare.gov, the site that allows people to purchase plans, also broke last year’s record. Roughly 250,000 more people visited the site on open enrollment’s first day this year, The Hill reported.
But even as signups surge, Trump’s attacks on the ACA will undoubtedly intensify. According to the Washington Post, Trump is poised to sign an executive order effectively gutting the individual mandate, which requires taxpayers to prove they are insured, if the Republicans fail to repeal it as a condition of their tax cut for the rich. That executive order would not affect plans purchased during this year’s open enrollment, but it would affect any plans going forward.
According to a draft of the executive order that was obtained by the Washington Examiner, Trump would expand “hardship exemptions” for people who cannot afford health insurance for reasons like natural disasters, death of a family member, and bankruptcy. Under the current law, unless an exemption is approved, taxpayers pay a penalty for not having insurance. Trump’s executive order would essentially reverse this policy.