Taxpayer money earmarked to encourage Americans to enroll in Obamacare has secretly been used by the Trump administration on a PR campaign against it, according to a report in the Daily Beast.
The funds paid for a multi-pronged social media push and videos designed to damage public opinion of the Affordable Care Act. The Department of Health and Human Services, under secretary Tom Price, has produced a series of videos starring people who claim to have been harmed by Obamacare. Twenty-three videos have been released and more than 130 produced by outside contractors who earn in the area of $550 an hour.
The videos were paid for through the HHS department's "consumer information and outreach budget," which was intended to advertise Obamacare and encourage signups. The Trump administration has requested a $574 million budget for next year.
The official Health and Human Services Twitter account has been broadcasting anti-Obamacare messages. "Since the Trump administration came into office, @HHSGov has mentioned ‘Obamacare’ 13 specific times, 10 of which could be described as openly hostile of the law," the Daily Beast reports. "Twice the account has re-tweeted Secretary Price’s own account when it has explicitly encouraged legislative efforts to undo Obamacare."
The Department's website has also been revamped, with information about the program's benefits replaced with a page about how Obamacare “has done damage to this market and created great burdens for many Americans.” Instead of a link to the main sign-up portal, the site has a post criticizing healthcare.gov and encouraging people to use private sector insurance brokers.
“I’m on a daily basis horrified by leaders at the Department of Health and Human Services who seem intent on taking healthcare away from the constituents they are supposed to serve,” said former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “We always believed that delivering health and human services was the mission of the department. That seems to not be the mission of the current leadership.”
After this week's failure of the Senate bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, President Trump pushed for a straight repeal bill. That stalled at the gate when senators objected. He then said the strategy would be "just to let Obamcare fail; it will be much easier." Wednesday afternoon, he changed his position again, advocating once again for repeal and replace.