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September 28, 2017

HHS pulls out of state-based ACA open enrollment events

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The Trump administration this year will not send any regional HHS representatives to participate in state-based Affordable Care Act (ACA) navigator enrollment efforts.

HHS in an email obtained by BuzzFeed News that was sent to Mississippi health officials and advocates wrote that the department instructed HHS regional directors not to participate in state-based ACA outreach events. According to BuzzFeed, an anonymous source with direct knowledge of the matter also said HHS instructed its 10 regional directors not to participate in state-based events promoting the ACA's upcoming open enrollment period. Politico also confirmed the report.

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HHS officials in previous years attended and helped promote state-based ACA enrollment events, according Politico's "Pulse." However, a source told Politico, "all of that has come to a stop."

The announcement comes after CMS last month cut federal spending to promote enrollment in exchange plans by 90 percent, compared with the last open enrollment period.


HHS press secretary Caitlin Oakley in a statement said exchange "enrollment events are organized and implemented by outside groups with their own agendas, not HHS." She continued, "These events may continue regardless of HHS participation."

Roy Mitchell, executive director of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program (MHAP), said MHAP and other groups had scheduled an annual pre-enrollment event for the first week of October after being "reassured multiple times someone from HHS would be there." However, Mitchell said the group now is canceling the event and groups will shift their focus toward ACA outreach without assistance from HHS. Mitchell in a notice about the event's cancelation called HHS' actions "destructi[ve]," adding that the department's decision "will ultimately reduce enrollment, increase costs, and drive up the uninsured rate in Mississippi" (Nocera/McLeod, BuzzFeed News, 9/27; Baker, "Vitals," Axios, 9/28; Diamond, "Pulse," Politico, 9/28). 

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