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Former Obamacare official says Trump depressed insurance sign-ups, as Washington state sets enrollment record

The ex-chief marketing officer of the federal Obamacare exchange estimated Thursday that "sabotage" by the Trump administration led to almost 500,000 fewer people signing up for health insurance plans this year than would have if Barack Obama was still president.

But also Thursday, the Washington state insurance marketplace announced record enrollment in its Obamacare plans, with 13 percent more customers than last year's open enrollment season.

But Washington's exchange, along with the 11 other marketplaces run by individual states and the District of Columbia, are likely to account for just 25 percent or so of the national tally for Obamacare enrollment.

The rest will come from the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov, which serves residents of 39 states.

Joshua Peck, former marketing chief of HealthCare.gov, in an article posted on Medium said that he expects that exchange's contribution to the national tally to be lower than it could have been because of a decision by the White House to cut back outreach efforts in the last week of enrollment for that marketplace.

"There should be no doubt that [President Donald] Trump's efforts to sabotage enrollment in the final days before the [enrollment] deadline were at least somewhat successful," wrote Peck.

"About 480,000 real people, with lives and families didn't get health coverage," Peck wrote. "Some of them are going to get very sick in the coming year and they won't have health insurance. Some will choose not to get the care they need and others will be forced into medical bankruptcy."

Peck noted that before Trump was sworn in on Jan. 20 and subsequently cut ads and outreach for HealthCare,gov, enrollment levels were "tracking ahead of last year."

As of mid-January, about 8.8 million people had signed up on HealthCare.gov, and another 2.8 million had signed up on the state-run exchanges.

Peck estimated that the reduced outreach led to 350,000 fewer people than might have signed up. The remaining lost estimate enrollment, he said, was due to signals by the Trump administration that it might not enforce the Obamacare tax penalty for people who fail to have some sort of health coverage.

The Trump administration — which plans to repeal Obamacare and replace it with new legislation — has not yet announced how many people signed up for individual plans sold through HealthCare.gov by Tuesday's deadline. The Obama administration routinely announced sign-up tallies on the heels of enrollment deadlines.

When asked, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the agency was not disclosing that information at this time.

Peck noted that last year, about 700,000 people enrolled on HealthCare.gov during the final sign-up week, with the bulk of them enrolling in the final three days before the deadline. This year, he said, the Obama administration had timed its ads and outreach — and paid for it in advance to ensure they would continue into the Trump administration — to give consumers an extra push in the final days to sign up.

Washington state's own Obamacare exchange on Thursday said that in its final week of enrollment traffic to the Washington Healthplanfinder marketplace more than doubled over last year's volume.

The Washington exchange, which like the other state-run exchanges, does its own outreach and ads, announced that more than 225,000 people had signed up for plans on the marketplace by the deadline.

That 13 percent rise over last year "is a remarkable increase in a service provided to and needed by people in all parts of the state," said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

"The exchange is doing exactly what it was intended to do and helping record numbers of working families who need and deserve health care."

"While congressional leaders in Washington, D.C., are trying to take health care away from people in our state, I will do all I can to ensure these families do not see their coverage repealed until a viable replacement is in place."