The Trump Regime Used Promotional Funds to Attack Obamacare

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

There are funds appropriated each year that allow the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to promote Obamacare's enlistment period and benefits, but those funds have been used for a different purpose under Trump and department secretary Tom Price.

According to The Daily Beast, HHS has used the promotional funds to produce a series of videos of people claiming Obamacare has somehow hurt them.

Funding for those videos would come from the Department’s “consumer information and outreach” budget, which was previously used for the purposes of advertising the ACA and encouraging enrollment. The Trump administration has requested $574 million for this specific budget item, though HHS declined to detail how much it has devoted to specific line items. Two sources familiar with the videos say that HHS continues to draw money from the outreach fund, even though its objective has switched from promoting the ACA to highlighting the law’s critics and its shortcomings.

Getting the subjects to HHS’ studio also cost taxpayer money. In this case, the White House itself found individuals, often through local news stories and Republican Party connections, and flew them to Washington, D.C., to participate in roundtables to discuss Obamacare. From there, they were whisked across town to HHS headquarters.

Based on additional reporting by The Daily Beast, which spoke to some of the people featured in the HHS videos, it appears not all of them fully understood what they were getting into. One woman who spoke to the Beast said she had "no clue" what was happening and I suspect that's why the department has only released 23 of the 130 videos it has produced using promotional funds.

This is reminiscent of the conservative legal challenge of Obamacare's exchange subsidies which quite literally hinged on the meaning of a single word in a single sentence. The law's challengers argued that the word "state" did not refer to actual states. In that case, plaintiffs named in court were also unaware of what they were getting into. The plaintiffs were presented as people who were somehow hurt by Obamacare subsidies, but they did not know that millions of people would lose access to coverage if the Supreme Court ruled in their favor because their lawyers did not tell them that.

I can't say there's literally no one who wasn't somehow inconvenienced by or fell through a coverage hole in Obamacare, because it's not a perfect law, but it seems clear that finding people who were genuinely "hurt" by it; people who had better coverage before it became law; is exceedingly difficult.

Speaking from personal experience, the cost of my insurance jumped dramatically at one point, but I think that had more to do with the fact that I turned 30 at the time. It was going to happen anyway. Repealing Obamacare tomorrow would not mean personal premiums will nosedive. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) actually found that repealing Obamacare will cause personal premiums and deductibles to explode.

The CBO score released this morning on the latest version of Trumpcare found that deductibles for a median plan that covers medical and drug expenses would rise to $13,000 for an individual by 2026. That's more than double the deductible for the cheapest plan available under current law.

  • muselet

    I suppose we should be grateful Tom Price didn’t spend HHS information and outreach funds to promote Donald Trump’s Beeyootiful Transparent Solar Border Wall That Mexico Will Totally Pay For Believe Me or to preview Ivanka Trump’s winter fashion knock-offs.


  • Username1016

    It makes my head hurt. It’s like, this isn’t actually illegal because it would never occur to a sane and reasonable person that someone might DO that. They are endlessly ingenious at perverting the structure.

    Or maybe it IS illegal. Under some big general thing like misappropriations or fraud? Please tell me it is…