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Pallone Requests Comparative GAO Analysis of Trump Administration’s ACA Open Enrollment Preparation

May 18, 2017
Press Release

Voicing concern that the Trump administration is not fulfilling its duty to encourage enrollment in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplaces, Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) today sent a letter to U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro requesting a comparative review of the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) efforts to prepare for the 2018 open enrollment season versus outreach efforts for the 2017 open enrollment season. 

“I am writing to request that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conduct a study evaluating the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) efforts to prepare for the upcoming open enrollment season for the 2018 plan year,” Pallone wrote in his letter to Dodaro.  “The Marketplace depends on high participation to succeed, and the vast majority of enrollees sign up for coverage during open enrollment.  Therefore, HHS’s planning for and administration of the open enrollment season is critical for the Marketplace’s success.”

Pallone’s request follows reports earlier this year that the Trump administration canceled $4-5 million worth of crucial outreach advertisements to potential enrollees during the final days of the 2017 open enrollment period.  In response to those reports, Pallone joined Democratic committee leaders in a January letter to HHS requesting details on the Trump administration’s decision to halt advertising and outreach activities during the crucial final week of open enrollment, and raising concerns that the Administration’s seemingly intentional efforts to sabotage enrollment in the ACA Marketplaces will result in adverse risk selection, destabilize insurance markets, and send premiums skyrocketing.  To date, HHS has not responded to the Democrats’ inquiry.

“The Administration’s actions hampered overall enrollment in the Marketplaces, as the final deadline for open enrollment has in the past been the second-biggest day for signups,” Pallone continued in his letter to GAO.  “Research has shown that the last week of open enrollment also tends to draw younger enrollees, whose participation is critical to the stability of the Marketplace and to keeping premiums affordable.”

In fact, the administration’s lack of commitment to encourage robust enrollment is already affecting the marketplaces, as insurers are filing higher rates for 2018, citing uncertainty about enrollment. 

Make no mistake—the Trump administration’s efforts to sabotage ACA, including Marketplace outreach and enrollment activities, is already resulting in higher costs for consumers,” Pallone said.

In his request to GAO, Pallone requested answers to several key questions including:

  1. What enrollment goals did HHS set for 2018? Did HHS meet its enrollment goals for 2018? If not, why not? Did HHS use 2017 enrollment figures as a benchmark or guide for planning for 2018 open enrollment? If not, why not?
  2. How did HHS’s efforts for 2018 open enrollment compare to those for 2017, including level of resources dedicated to support outreach efforts, advertising, targeted outreach to young adults, call center and Navigator support, and support and enhancement of HealthCare.gov?
  3. How did 2018 Marketplace enrollment figures compare to those for 2017? What factors may have contributed to any notable difference in enrollment figures between 2017 and 2018?

A copy of Pallone’s letter to GAO is available here.

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