January 31, 2017

Senators ask Inspector General to investigate HHS suspension of Affordable Care Act outreach efforts at enrollment deadline

Letter cites significant public confusion about HHS actions, threats of higher costs for families

Washington, DC - U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today requested an investigation by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS OIG) into the Department's decision to halt advertisements and suspend e-mail and social media outreach in the final days of the 2017 Affordable Care Act (ACA) open enrollment season.

The senators noted that this decision "has been labeled ‘outrageous' and ‘irresponsible'," and that "the strength of the ACA marketplaces-which enrolled nearly 13 million people during open enrollment in 2016 -depends, in part, on attracting young, healthy enrollees, whose involvement in the marketplaces keeps premium costs down for all enrollees."

"Historically, the final week of the enrollment period has attracted large numbers of young, healthy individuals to the ACA marketplaces. Thus, blocking advertisements and other outreach efforts just five days before the January 31st deadline threatens to increase insurance prices for the individuals who will sign up for ACA coverage on the exchanges in 2018 and beyond," the senators wrote.

The letter cited significant public confusion about HHS's actions, including comments from an anonymous HHS spokesman who claimed that canceling advertisements would result in cost savings to taxpayers despite indications that these advertisements were already paid for.

The senators ask OIG to answer a series of questions about who in the Trump Administration made this decision, and how and why they did so. A PDF copy of the letter is available here.