Last week, we saw a remarkable defeat of the latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Graham-Cassidy bill would have stripped millions of their health insurance, and undermined critical consumer protections. However, while the effort to repeal the ACA was unsuccessful, we still have several concerns with how its enforcement is being handled, due to the cuts to the window for open enrollment, the rollback of outreach efforts, in particular to the Latino community, and the fact that some members of Congress are still trying to undermine a law that helped millions of people access health care.
The current administration is trying to chip away at the law administratively. One of the more alarming tactics the president has announced is a drastically reduced open enrollment period. In years prior, the open enrollment period stretched from November 1 to January 31, a full 90 days. This year, the open enrollment will last from November 1 to December 15. That’s just 45 days.
Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would be reducing its advertising dollars from $100 million to a mere $10 million. The administration’s decision to slash the advertising budget to spread information about open enrollment is especially problematic given the confusion about the status of the ACA and open enrollment changes. This year it is more important than ever to let our communities know the open enrollment dates and the importance of getting covered.
The president has drastically reduced the Department of Health and Human Services’s funding for the ACA’S navigator program. Navigators, including many of our Affiliates, are trusted messengers in the communities they serve, providing essential community outreach and educational resources, and helping consumers choose the health plan that best fits their needs. The recent decision to enact significant cuts to navigator funding, in some cases by 90 percent, will undoubtedly harm consumers, including Latinos, who rely on these resources to enroll in coverage. These groups have been forced to lay off the very navigators who have been essential in helping our community access health care. UnidosUS will continue to work with our Affiliates to ensure they can provide assistance to those who need to get covered.
The Fight to Protect Our Gains Continues
While the Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land, we must remain vigilant about attempts to undermine the law from the Republican-controlled Congress and the administration. The fight to protect our care is not over, even after what happened last week. As Congress now pivots to working on tax reform, some members have signaled support for legislative maneuvers to undermine the ACA and Medicaid through the tax reform process.
UnidosUS is fully engaged legislatively and with the administration. But we need your help. We will continue to protect and defend our communities from efforts to undermine the significant gains our community has made under the ACA. However, we are only as effective as the community we have behind us. In the coming days and weeks, we will be calling on you to help spread the word about open enrollment and to help us fight back any other unforeseen moves the administration makes to undermine the health care gains we have made together.