Advertising budget for Obamacare to be cut 90 percent: U.S. health agency

FILE PHOTO: Cathey Park of Cambridge, Massachusetts wears a cast for her broken wrist with "I Love Obamacare" written upon it prior to U.S. President Barack Obama's arrival to speak about health insurance at Faneuil Hall in Boston October 30, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said on Thursday it plans to spend $10 million on advertising for the upcoming Obamacare open enrollment period that starts in November, a sharp cut from the $100 million spent last year.

The agency also said it will cut funding for so-called navigators, who help people enroll in Obamacare health insurance plans, by 41 percent to $36.8 million.

Thursday’s announcement was the latest move by the Trump administration to undercut the 2010 Affordable Care Act, former Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement.

“A healthcare system that has caused premiums to double and left nearly half of our counties with only one coverage option is not working,” Caitlin Oakley, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement. “The Trump administration is determined to serve the American people instead of trying to sell them a bad deal.”

After Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress as well as the White House, failed over the summer to deliver on President Donald Trump’s top campaign promise to repeal and replace the law, he vowed to let the law “implode” and said he would not take responsibility for it.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration announced it would back off enforcement of the so-called individual mandate, the requirement that everyone purchase health insurance or else pay a fine. The lack of enforcement has been a top concern among U.S. health insurers.

Trump has also repeatedly threatened to cut off billions of dollars of payments to insurers that they are guaranteed under the law, creating uncertainty and chaos in the individual insurance market.

Democrats swiftly criticized the administration’s decision to scale back advertising.

“The Trump administration is deliberately attempting to sabotage our health care system,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “When the number of people with health insurance declines and costs skyrocket, the American people will know who’s to blame.”

Reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb and Eric Beech; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Jonathan Oatis