Former president Barack Obama's signature legislative achievement was, without a doubt, the Affordable Care Act. That's one reason observers and critics of the Trump administration believe President Donald Trump is so keen on dismantling and replacing it, as a means of asserting his own place in history above and beyond that of his predecessor. But based on the numbers that are being reported this enrollment season, it seems like the efforts may be backfiring ― in fact, Obamacare enrollment is surging despite Trump's attempts to sabotage and undermine the law.
Ever since Trump first took office, the GOP has been struggling to pass a repeal or replacement to the ACA, pushing multiple false starts and failures until seemingly giving up at the end of September. The efforts largely failed on the strength of opposition from Republican senators John McCain, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski, in addition to the entire Democratic senate membership.
Trump himself also took some noticeable steps that seemed aimed at cutting against the effectiveness of the law, including halting some subsidy payments that are essential for low-income Americans seeking health insurance on the individual market. The administration also enacted a massive cut to the advertising budget for the Obamacare enrollment period, meaning it would ostensibly draw less attention and awareness than in years past.
Despite these apparent countermeasures, however, the enrollment period this year has been a distinct success. Since open enrollment began, a whopping 2.3 million people have reportedly signed up, outpacing the rate of enrollment over the same span last year by a considerable margin. According to The Hill, the 2016 open enrollment period saw just 2.1 million people sign up through 26 days, while this year, 2.3 million have signed up in just 18 days. The enrollment period will continue until Dec. 15.
Trump, for his part, has made no secret of his desire to scuttle the law, even if that means allowing or inducing it to fail, something that would have disastrous effects for the health care and lives of millions upon millions of Americans. After the GOP's attempt to repeal the law failed back in July, he was not at all subtle on this point, arguing that the best path forward for Republicans was to "let Obamacare fail," then pick up the issue again when the party has more leverage.
"We're not going to own it. I'm not going to own it," Trump told the assembled press on July 16, as detailed by The Los Angeles Times. "I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We'll let Obamacare fail and then the Democrats are going to come to us."
In addition to the executive actions taken by the administration, there may be yet another congressional attempt to strip the law of its basic functions on the horizon. According to reports, the Republican effort to pass a massive upper-class tax cut ― like the various ACA repeal bills, a hugely unpopular piece of legislation according to the polls ― may also include a provision repealing the Obamacare individual mandate, in what would be a major blow against the law.
Despite these efforts, however, it seems people's awareness and interest in signing up for insurance through Obamacare has not dimmed. In fact, according to polls, the law is generally more popular than it was at any point during the Obama administration, with people's support for it seemingly increasing at the very same time as it's come under greater and greater threat. Although it remains to be seen whether the Trump administration will take any more actions that undercut the efficiency of the law, it seems clear that the public opinion is aligned against it.