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Trump's Obamacare ad cuts will slash health enrollment by at least 1.1 million, analysis says

  • Obamacare enrollment will drop by at least 1.1 million because of outreach cutbacks by the Trump administration, a new analysis estimates.
  • The administration cut the outreach and education budgets by $90 million, or 90 percent, in August.
  • Other factors, including a shorter sign-up season and negative messaging by the administration, could depress enrollment further.
A man holds a sign directing people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act.
Getty Images
A man holds a sign directing people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act.

The Trump administration's move to slash Obamacare outreach and education budgets will lead to at least 1.1 million fewer people signing up for health insurance this enrollment season, a new analysis estimates.

And those 1.1 million lost customers will tend to be younger and healthier than the people who do sign up, putting even more financial pressure on health insurers, the analysis found.

As a result, insurance premium "prices are going to go up," said the analysis' author, Joshua Peck, former chief marketing officer for HealthCare.gov, the federally run Obamacare marketplace.

Peck's analysis, published Monday on Medium.com, comes less than two weeks before the start of Obamacare's fifth open-enrollment season. That season runs from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15.

Peck recently co-founded the Obamacare enrollment promotion group Get America Covered after the Trump administration dramatically cut back such efforts.

His projection of sign-up losses is based on Health and Human Services Department research that tracks "how many enrollments were generated per dollar spent" on television, radio and digital ads, as well as phone calls and direct mail.

"In past years, we've seen that younger consumers and presumably healthier consumers are more likely to respond to outreach," Peck wrote.

CNBC has reached out to HHS for comment on Peck's analysis.

Peck's estimate of 1.1 million fewer enrollments is a best-case scenario.

It assumes the Trump administration — which opposes Obamacare — will most efficiently use the remaining $10 million it has allocated for enrollment outreach after cutting $90 million in August.

Asked by CNBC if he had any reason to believe the administration would use that money efficiently, Peck said, "None whatsoever."

And he noted there are at least 14 other factors that could further depress enrollment this season, including: consumer confusion resulting from an effort to repeal Obamacare, a shortened sign-up season, cuts to in-person sign-up assistance budgets, and negative administration comments about "soaring" Obamacare premiums.

Collectively, "the impact is pretty grim," Peck said in an interview.

Peck also said he expects the administration to use the lower enrollment figures and higher premium prices that result from its own actions as ammunition to bash the law further.

"They're clearly going to say that the declining enrollment is evidence of lack of popular support of Obamacare, and I think there's a lot of evidence that shows that is patently false," Peck said.

Earlier this year, Peck made a similar projection about Obamacare enrollment losses, one that was proven true.

President Donald Trump, an Obamacare opponent, took office in the final weeks of the last open-enrollment season in January.

Right after Trump took the oath of office, his administration cut ongoing efforts to encourage people to sign up for Obamacare plans.

Peck at the time estimated those cuts, along with signals the administration would not enforce Obamacare rules, would lead to almost 500,000 fewer people enrolling in individual health plans.

"Looking at the final enrollment numbers, that seems pretty close," he wrote Monday.

"Nearly 500,000 fewer people enrolled at the end of January compared to the equivalent time period the previous year."

After those enrollment numbers were released in February, the Trump administration officials had touted the lower number of sign-ups as evidence that Obamacare was failing.