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Trump administration scrubs federal health-care website of positive words about Obamacare

A man holds a sign directing people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images
A man holds a sign directing people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Obamacare is being sent down the "memory hole."

The Trump administration, as it moves to repeal and replace Obamacare, has scrubbed a federal health-care website of positive words about that law, more formally known as the Affordable Care Act.

The scrubbing on HHS.gov left behind more neutral explanations of the law, at best, and in some cases omits highlights and features of the law that previously had been touted in positive terms on the site.

HHS.gov is the site run by the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency that oversees Obamacare and the nation's massive Medicare and Medicaid health coverage systems.

The ACA-targeted editing, first reported by the Washington Examiner Times, comes several weeks after the Trump administration killed most advertising and outreach efforts to encourage sign-ups on the federal Obamacare insurance exchange HealthCare.gov in the final days of open enrollment.

That pull-back has been blamed for a more than 4 percent decreasein sign-ups in the 39 states on the exchange compared to last year, in contrast to the more than 2 percent increase in enrollment in states served by their own marketplaces.

HHS, which runs HealthCare.gov, had been Obamacare's biggest cheerleader before President Barack Obama left office on Jan. 20.

But in many places now, the HHS.gov website has watered down language that refers only to the "current law," where it had referred to the "Affordable Care Act" as recently as late January.

And in a section where the current HHS.gov site does explicitly mention the ACA by name, the site merely links to the full, very complicated text of that law, with an introduction that makes no mention of the benefits of the law to consumers.

Previously, that "About the Law" page began by saying, "The Affordable Care Act puts consumers back in charge of their health care."

"Under the law, a new 'Patient's Bill of Rights' gives the American people the stability and flexibility they need to make informed choices about their health," that now-deleted section had said, according to an image of it captured by the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine.

Also gone from that page is slew of "key features" of the law, which include banning lifetime limits on most insurance benefits and allowing adults under age 26 to be covered by their parents' health plans.

The page that now details ACA rules on pre-existing conditions does not have — as it previously did — a section entitled "A Real Story," which included a video and written text about a diabetic man in Florida who before Obamacare had worried about his lack of health insurance.

The page on "Young Adult Coverage" previously had noted: "Before the health care law, insurance companies could remove enrolled children usually at age 19, sometimes older for full-time students." That line has been removed, as have links to a report on 3 million young adults gaining insurance due to the ACA, and to a frequently asked questions page on young adult coverage.

Completely gone now is a section entitled "ER Access & Doctor Choice," which had explained how the ACA "helps preserve your choice of doctors and opens access to out-of-network emergency services."'

An HHS spokesman has not yet responded to a request for comment on the changes.

Long-time Obamacare foe Tom Price, a Republican from Georgia who had been a member of the House of Representatives, was sworn in Friday as President Donald Trump's secretary of HHS.

A former top Obama administration health official on Friday criticized the elimination of details about the ACA on HHS's site.

"Hiding information and making it more difficult for consumers to learn about the Affordable Care Act and what it means in their lives is just the latest in a string of efforts by the Trump Administration to sabotage the health-care law," said Lori Lodes, who previously served as communications director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the HHS division that directly oversees Obamacare.