While everyone hashes out the Congressional Budget Office’s latest score for the Senate’s repeal-only plan for Obamacare, a new report alleges Donald Trump’s administration used money meant for the Affordable Care Act to campaign against it. According to The Daily Beast, taxpayer money intended to encourage enrollment in Obamacare was co-opted by Secretary Tom Price’s Department of Health and Human Services to fund an advertising apparatus designed to cast doubt on the landmark legislation. The campaign included numerous social media posts and video testimonials alleging Obamacare’s failure.
All 23 videos are available on the department’s official YouTube page, where they’ve garnered no more than 100 to 200 views apiece. However, the report indicates Price’s agency “has made a heavy investment in them,” per a source who explained “nearly 30 interviews [were] conducted” and “more than 130 videos have been produced.”
Funding for those videos would come from the Department’s “consumer information and outreach” budget, which was previously used for the purposes of advertising the ACA and encouraging enrollment. The Trump administration has requested $574 million for this specific budget item, though HHS declined to detail how much it has devoted to specific line items.
Despite the department’s unwillingness to provide The Daily Beast with comment, however, at least two sources revealed “HHS continues to draw money from the outreach fund, even though its objective has switched from promoting the ACA to highlighting the law’s critics and its shortcomings.” What’s more, the White House’s use of the money included a video studio at HHS headquarters formerly used by the Obama administration, and travel costs for interviewees officials discovered “through local news stories and Republican Party connections.”
Participants like Tracie Sanchez, a small business owner from Ohio, were told they would “participate in roundtables to discuss Obamacare” before officials “whisked [them] across town to HHS headquarters” for the interviews. “We had no clue [this was happening],” she told The Daily Beast. “That just popped up when we got there.” The interviewee emphasized it was an “honor” to participate in the video interviews, though others interviewed for the report were more ambivalent about their involvement in the campaign.
(Via The Daily Beast)