In its latest attempt to sabotage the law that 20 million Americans rely on for health coverage, the Trump administration is planning to shut down Healthcare.gov for large stretches of time during the upcoming enrollment period, during hours when many are likely to try to sign up for insurance plans.
The website will be taken offline for maintenance nearly every Sunday during the enrollment period, which lasts from November 1 until December 15, from 12:00am to 12:00pm. The move could affect Americans' ability to sign up for coverage, critics said Wednesday.
"I could see this really impacting the ability of people to complete an application sign-up in a single sitting, which is so important," Jason Stevenson of the Utah Health Policy Project, which assists Americans in sign-ups, told CNN last year amid a similar attempt by Trump.
Trump wants to steal what is left of your access to healthcare.
— Victoria Brownworth (@VABVOX) October 9, 2018
— rolandsmartin (@rolandsmartin) October 10, 2018
There was no reason to do this last year, and there's no reason to do it now - except to make it harder for American families to sign up for health care coverage. https://t.co/HVqQQiXuXf
— Eliot Engel (@RepEliotEngel) October 10, 2018
After their attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) failed in the summer of 2017, the Trump administration and the Republican Party have launched numerous attacks on the law and Americans' ability to sign up for coverage under it.
"With the president continuing to regularly brag about gutting the ACA and with the administration refusing to defend the law in court, there is reason to be concerned about a schedule that takes the federal marketplace down for long stretches over weekends during holiday season," Eliot Fishman, senior director of health policy at the health advocacy group Families USA, told The Hill.
On Wednesday, Senate Democrats planned to force a vote on one of those attacks—the administration's expansion of short-term insurance plans, commonly called "junk" insurance by critics, which costs less and don't have to comply with all the ACA's requirements.
The plans "can deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and don't have to provide essential health services like prescription drugs, emergency room visits, and maternity care," Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) said in a statement.
In 2017, the Trump administration also slashed funding to advertise the ACA enrollment period by 90 percent, and allowed only six weeks for sign-ups—cut down from three months under the Obama administration.
Although she's among the 70 House Democrats who joined the House Medicare for All caucus this year, calling for a universal healthcare system to replace the ACA, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) slammed the Trump administration for its continued efforts to keep people from accessing healthcare.
"Once again, in an effort to sabotage the health care markets, the Trump admin will be shutting down healthcare.gov every week during open enrollment," Lee tweeted. "They're not working for the people—they're trying to keep affordable health care out of reach."