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HHS watchdog will scrutinize Trump’s decision to yank Obamacare ads

The Health and Human Services Department’s watchdog will investigate the Trump administration’s decision to yank pro-Obamacare advertisements during a critical week of signups earlier this year, Senate Democrats said Friday.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Patty Murray of Washington said the HHS inspector general will conduct a “fact-finding review” of how the decision was made, expected savings and how it might have affected enrollment.

“President Trump and congressional Republicans have made clear that their priorities include destroying the protection that ACA gives millions of families,” Mrs. Warren said. “HHS’s move to halt outreach for ACA enrollment could contribute to weakening health care marketplaces and raising costs for hard working people across the country.”

The announcement coincided with Mr. Trump’s shocking decision to pull an Obamacare replacement plan from the House floor, since Republican leaders were unable to cobble together enough GOP votes for passage.

Mr. Trump responded by saying the law will likely implode on its own, after young and healthy people failed to sign up in large numbers, resulting in rate hikes.

Democrats cheered the GOP bill’s demise, though warned that Mr. Trump still might try to dismantle the 2010 law.

“President Trump and Republicans in Congress will no doubt try to revive this disaster or continue their efforts to undermine Obamacare,” Sen. Chris Murphy, Connecticut Democrat, said.

About 12.2 million selected coverage for 2017 on the web-based exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act, compared to 12.7 million during last year’s open enrollment season, the Trump administration reported this month.

It was the first year-over-year decline in signup since the web-based exchanges launched in late 2013.

Yet Democrats and former Obama administration officials swiftly pointed to Mr. Trump’s decision to pull up to $ 5 million in ads touting the the main Obamacare website, HealthCare.gov, ahead of the Jan. 31 deadline to buy coverage.

The administration said it refused to spend more money on a “failed” government program, though Obamacare supporters accused Mr. Trump of sabotaging the controversial health care law before he offered a solution of his own.

Enrollment numbers had been running ahead of last year’s effort before Inauguration Day, they said.

“Watch out for Trump’s [hashtage] HHSGov to work hard to sabotage the current health care system now. Cynical, but predictable,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, Oregon Democrat, said on Twitter after the House GOP’s bill died Friday.

Republicans wanted to use HHS Secretary Tom Price’s authority to help them move away from Obamacare’s patchwork of federal mandates and regulations on insurers, though pitched it as “phase two” of their three-pronged plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Yet House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said it will be difficult to make those changes now so long as Obamacare is the law of the land.

“This [GOP] bill would have made what we call phase two much, much better,” he said. “Nevertheless, I think there are some things that the secretary of HHS can do to try and sort of stabilize things, but really we need this bill to make it better.”

Source: www.washingtontimes.com stories: Politics

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