The Trump administration is planning to take down the ObamaCare website for hours at a time during the open enrollment period, The Hill is reporting.
The administration has argued that such downtime occurs regularly on the site and is designed to happen during slower periods. Critics have said it is an attempt to trip up coverage provided through the Affordable Care Act, known as ObamaCare.
Healthcare.gov will go offline every Sunday from 12 a.m. to 12 p.m. for five Sundays totaling 60 hours, the same as last year, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) told The Hill. The agency told the news organization that the site experienced 53.5 hours of maintenance downtime at the end of 2016, when Obama was president.
Open enrollment for 2019 coverage runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15.
“CMS is clearly at pains to provide assurances of its benign intent in this maintenance schedule,” Eliot Fishman, senior director of health policy at the advocacy group Families USA, told The Hill.
“But 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,” Fishman said. “We’ll be watching this closely.”
Last year, the administration was widely criticized after cutting the advertising budget for ACA health insurance signups by 90 percent.
In August 2017, officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the advertising budget would be cut from $100 million to $10 million and claimed it was making the move after seeing “diminishing returns” from ACA spending. The officials also claimed ACA had caused premiums to double.
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., at the time said, “The only reason for slashing the advertising budget by 90 percent is to suppress enrollment in an effort to destabilize the markets.”