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'Sabotage' : Trump administration reportedly kills Obamacare ads for HealthCare.gov with less than week to go in open enrollment

President Donald Trump to Obamacare ads: Drop Dead!

The Trump administration has reportedly killed media ads designed to encourage people to enroll in insurance coverage through the federal Obamacare marketplace before next Tuesday's open-enrollment deadline.

A man holds a sign directing people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act.
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A man holds a sign directing people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act.

The White House also has ended other outreach efforts to spur sign-ups on the HealthCare.govmarketplace, according to Politico, which broke the story Thursday.

That outreach includes emails that HealthCare.gov had been sending out to people who began, but did not complete, the enrollment process.

Kevin Counihan, who until last week was CEO of that marketplace, HealthCare.gov, in a statement to CNBC called the move an "outrageous decision" to "sabotage open enrollment" in Obamacare.

His comments were echoed by Leslie Dach, a former top Obama administration health official who is now director of the Protect Our Care Coalition. Dach said in a emailed statement, "This is sabotage pure and simple."

"This proves that this administration doesn't care about people who need health coverage," Dach said. "And It clearly shows that they now own the consequences of their efforts to undermine the health care system."

The White House's reported move comes less than a week after Trump's inauguration as president, and his signing of an executive order authorizing officials to start dismantling parts of Obamacare.

Although the president and Congressional Republicans plan to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, they have yet to publicly unveil any replacement plan for the ACA, much less one that could maintain the gains in insurance coverage achieved under Obamacare.

CNBC has reached out for comment from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, which operates HealthCare.gov, but has not received a response.

An HHS spokesman was quoted by Politico as saying, "HHS has pulled back roughly $5 million of the final placement in an effort to look for efficiencies, where they exist."

But Politico noted that it had previously reported that the Obama administration had paid for and scheduled the ads and outreach to run until Jan. 31, more than a week after Trump''s inauguration.

People will still be allowed to sign up on HealthCare.gov, which serves residents of 39 states.

The former CEO of that exchange, Counihan, told Politico that the cessation of ads and outreach "will clearly have a material impact" on the volume of sign-ups on the marketplace.

In a statement sent to CNBC, Counihan said, "Before January 20, HealthCare.gov enrollment was running ahead of schedule, and more Americans were receiving the security of health insurance than ever before."

"But the Trump Administration's outrageous decision tonight to sabotage open enrollment will mean coverage could cost more next year and insurers could drop out of the marketplace," Counihan said.

"We know that more young people enroll during the final days of open Enrollment, but they need to be reminded of the January 31 deadline," he said.

"Having health insurance is still law of the land," Counihan said. "If the President and Republicans in Congress want to change that, they should come up with a plan and show it to the American people, rather than depriving Americans of the chance to sign up for coverage and financial assistance they remain eligible for."

HealthCare.gov is, by far, the largest government-run exchange. So far this enrollment season, 8.8 million people have signed up for coverage in individual insurance plans sold on that marketplace, slightly outpacing last year's rate. Despite that, Trump has repeatedly called Obamacare "a disaster," pointing to big hikes in premiums this year, and high deductibles of some plans.

The federal exchange and the 12 other exchanges run by individual states and the District of Columbia routinely see significant surge in sign-up volume in the days leading up to enrollment deadlines. That last such deadline was mid-December, when people had to sign up for coverage effective Jan. 1, the day after coverage for 2016 plans expired.

Under the Affordable Care Act, most Americans must have some form of health coverage for most of the the year or face a possible tax penalty. The Obamacare exchanges were set up to provide people with individual plans to comply with that mandate.

Most exchange customers receive federal subsidies, in the form of tax credits, that lower what they pay in monthly premiums. Those subsidies to HealthCare.gov and state exchange customers are available to people with low and moderate incomes.