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Beyer, Speier, 78 House Dems Challenge Sec. Price, Trump Administration Over Healthcare.Gov Shutdowns During Open Enrollment

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From Rep. Don Beyer:

Beyer, Speier, 78 House Dems Challenge Sec. Price, Trump Administration Over Healthcare.Gov Shutdowns During Open Enrollment

September 28, 2017 (Washington, D.C.) – Representatives Beyer and Speier today sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price urging him to minimize the damage from shutdowns of Healthcare.gov during open enrollment period. HHS recently announced that it would shut the site down for 12-hour periods on every Sunday but one throughout open enrollment. The letter was signed by 78 Democratic Representatives.

The Representatives wrote:

“The recent announcement by HHS regarding planned shut downs of HealthCare.gov during the 2018 Open Enrollment Period is incredibly concerning. These shut down periods will amount to a full three days in which Americans will not be able to enroll and access health coverage. Furthermore, this does not take into account that HHS has already reduced the time that Americans will be able to enroll this year by 47 days (a 51 percent time reduction) as compared to the 2017 Open Enrollment Period. By contrast, the HealthCare.gov website was online 99.9 percent of the time during the 2015 and 2016 open enrollment periods…

On behalf of the millions of Americans who will have more difficulty or will not be able to sign up for and access health insurance coverage because of the many decisions made by HHS and President Trump, we ask that you take the simple step of tailoring website maintenance to shorter durations during times with low traffic or compensating for the lost hours due to maintenance by adding time to the end of the open enrollment period.”

Added together, the scheduled Healthcare.gov shutdowns would shorten open enrollment by three days. The Trump Administration previously announced that it would cut the duration of open enrollment in half to 45 days after 2016’s 90-day period.

A signed copy of the letter is available here and text is below.

The Honorable Thomas E. Price, M.D.
Secretary
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Hubert H. Humphrey Building
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC 20201

Dear Secretary Price:

We are writing to request that you modify the planned maintenance on HealthCare.gov to avoid unnecessary disruption of the open enrollment period for the health insurance marketplaces. We have great concern over the recent announcement that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) plans to shut down HealthCare.gov every Sunday but one for a twelve-hour time window during the six-week open enrollment period. We therefore ask HHS to limit these outages and tailor them to ensure that outages are not scheduled during times with historically higher traffic or, conversely, add additional days onto open enrollment to make up for the extensive amount of lost enrollment time.

The recent announcement by HHS regarding planned shut downs of HealthCare.gov during the 2018 Open Enrollment Period is incredibly concerning. These shut down periods will amount to a full three days in which Americans will not be able to enroll and access health coverage. Furthermore, this does not take into account that HHS has already reduced the time that Americans will be able to enroll this year by 47 days (a 51 percent time reduction) as compared to the 2017 Open Enrollment Period. By contrast, the HealthCare.gov website was online 99.9 percent of the time during the 2015 and 2016 open enrollment periods.

This is just one of a series of troubling decisions made by HHS to limit Americans’ access to health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The Trump Administration is spending 90 percent less on advertising to enroll people in the health insurance marketplaces despite clear evidence that advertising is an essential catalyst for enrollment. Also, 41 percent less funding will be allocated to navigators, the individuals who help people sign up for coverage. Most recently, HHS decided to no longer send regional representatives to assist in state-based open enrollment events, a clear move by the Trump Administration to purposefully weaken marketplace enrollment efforts. Therefore, we are extremely troubled by the decision to further limit the opportunity for those who wish to sign up for health coverage.

On behalf of the millions of Americans who will have more difficulty or will not be able to sign up for and access health insurance coverage because of the many decisions made by HHS and President Trump, we ask that you take the simple step of tailoring website maintenance to shorter durations during times with low traffic or compensating for the lost hours due to maintenance by adding time to the end of the open enrollment period. For an agency whose stated mission is “to enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans,” we ask that you fulfill your mission and adjust the maintenance window to ensure that Americans are able to access care. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,