The Trump “administration,” for lack of a better word, was quite insistent when they disemboweled the Affordable Care Act’s public advertising budget that it was not an effort to sabotage the program by making information about the program less visible or easy to find for Americans. Their reasoning was that the advertising efforts weren’t effective.
This was of course a lie, because the Trump “administration” is full of lying liars who only have the jobs they have now based on their willingness to be lying liars. There was actually research done on this during the previous administration, and it turns out that the effort indeed led to much greater enrollment. And this research could have been looked up by the current administration, had they bothered. Go figure.
The HHS research suggested that, combined, all advertising was responsible for about 37 percent of new enrollees signing up. That figure backs up prior assertions from Obama-era HHS officials, including Andy Slavitt, who was in charge of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and Lori Lodes, a who oversaw CMS outreach efforts and wrote about them for Vox.
In addition, HHS found, advertising had driven a roughly equal proportion of existing enrollees to shop on healthcare.gov and re-enroll that way. The last part is important, because enrollees who shop around for new plans rather than simply enrolling in the same ones can frequently find better deals.
Let us pause for a moment to admire the sheer ingenuity on display here:
Experts wanted to know if spending money in a certain way was an effective means of advancing policy or a waste of dollars. Experts went off to take a look at the numbers either way, and came to a conclusion. Truly, it is a marvelous innovation we have here. Why, it used to be in ye olden days that if two men had a disagreement on, say, whether being hit in the head with a pillow was better or worse than being hit in the head with a brick-sized chunk of schist, all they could do was shout bitterly at each other until someone either started throwing punches or succumbed to alcohol poisoning. But nowadays we have ways. We have solid methods for determining whether the pillow or the metamorphic rock would provide the more pleasant face-hitting experience. We can put numbers to the experience, and make graphs and charts and whatnot. By gum, we have advanced.
Nay, government experts wanted to know which methods of promoting the online health insurance marketplace worked and which were a waste of time, so they set themselves to figuring that out—like proper adults and everything. We can only imagine how long it might take for such innovative approaches to penetrate the anti-information shielding of the current White House team. Or perhaps they knew all along, because they have access to the same information that the rest of the government has, if they cared to look.
But we probably should not hope for much. It is far more likely that Donald Trump will schedule a new trip to a red state to give a speech railing against the crooked hacks of big pillow and telling Americans that under his leadership, each and every citizen will get hit in the head with a chunk of schist and find it the best goddamn thing to ever happen to them. Tom Price will appear on television to swear up and down to it. And Bill Cassidy will lead Republicans into drafting a brand new bill, the Everybody Gets Hit With A Big Chunk Of Schist Act of 2017, and act surly and hurt and indignant when people suggest that maybe we could just not throw rocks at our own heads for the ideological satisfaction of doing so and instead move the hell on with our lives.
Six of one, half dozen of the other. Ya take your pick.