The Department Of Health And Human Services Is Trying To Sabotage The ACA With A Bad Web Series

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WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 3: (AFP OUT) Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr.David Shulkin speaks during a Department of Veterans Affairs announcement with U.S. President Donald J. Trump of a new program using video and software technology to provide medical care to veterans at The White House August 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)

Unless you’ve taken a break from the news (very smart), you know that despite government efforts to repeal and run away, the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare continues to be the law, providing healthcare options for millions of Americans. But the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – the department tasked with promoting health and, y’know, serving humans – is trying to sabotage the law and its healthcare exchanges by slashing advertising budgets, cutting back staff, and scheduling website maintenance for the hours when people are most likely to be trying to get on the site. And while it’s not uncommon for presidents to slow walk laws they don’t like (see, for example, the Obama Administration’s creative enforcement of federal laws against marijuana), what’s at stake here is the health and safety of millions of Americans. It seems uniquely despicable to score political points by intentionally undercutting the ability of Americans to get treatment for injury or illness.

Not content to make the law dysfunctional, HHS also produced a web series called “Families Burdened by Obamacare.” The nine videos consist of people telling straight-to-camera, stories about their inability to get adequate healthcare. The stories are sad and despairing and provide a glimpse into areas where Obamacare may fall short. There’s no doubt that many Americans are still frustrated, unprotected, and scared. But the videos offer no solutions, and only thin critiques. Each speaker ends up pivoting to over-used talking points: “I don’t blame our insurance company,” one woman says. “I really hope that the Trump Administration and the U.S. Congress, the Republicans in the Senate and the House can get their act together and deliver relief to the American people,” another rattles off. The videos all abruptly end with a cut to the HHS logo and the fine print, “*Produced at U.S. taxpayer expense.” That’s right: American taxpayers bought this sloppy propaganda.

It’s a frustrating series to sit through — partly because the interviewees are having a hard enough time without former Secretary Tom “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane” Price and his department exploiting their stories for political gain. And partly because this is the department that should be using their access to U.S. taxpayer funds to help Americans facing healthcare crises. In fact, it’s their job.

Instead, the money and energy that might be put to use fixing health care, improving the ACA, and doing the important, hard work of helping people get coverage is going to a bad web series. It’s shameful. HHS employees are paid and given the authority to help, but instead are wielding their power to make a difficult situation worse. And it’s even more shameful and embarrassing to do it with a web series.