A program intended to provide assistance to consumers trying to enroll for Obamacare has come to a screeching halt in 18 cities across the nation.
Affordable Care Act contractors reportedly informed community groups of the change last week.
Medicare and Medicaid officials opted to not renew the final year on their contracts with Cognosante LLC, based in McLean, Virginia, and CSRA Inc., based in Falls Church, Virginia, according to the announcement.
Both contracts will expire the same date, August 29, and were costly, with Cognosante costing $9.6 million, and CSRA costing $12.8 million, according to PBS. Reportedly, less than 1 percent of the 9.2 million people who signed up through the HealthCare.gov website used the service.
The program had provided assistance in libraries, businesses and urban neighborhoods, to aid confused consumers in the enrollment process.
Services were provided in the Texas cities of Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, McAllen and El Paso; the Florida cities of Miami, Tampa and Orlando; Atlanta; northern New Jersey; Phoenix; Philadelphia; Indianapolis; New Orleans; Charlotte, North Carolina; Cleveland and Chicago.
Jane Norris, an agency spokeswoman, said the contracts were temporary, and other enrollment assistance programs in place will continue, including a year-round call center. The existing program is “robust” and “we have the on-the-ground resources necessary” in key cities, Norris said.
Community groups opposing the decision claimed it is all part of Trump’s plan to let Obamacare fail. “It has our heads spinning about how to meet the needs in communities,” said Inna Rubin of United Way of Metro Chicago.
Also adding to their frustration is the shortened enrollment period, which is now only 45 days. People shopping for healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act for 2018 must apply between Nov. 1 to Dec. 15. Previously, 90 days were allotted for enrollment.
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