By Jim Smoger, editor
Wheaton Gazette

Readers who happen to use public health insurance programs should feel lucky if they live in Minnesota. MnSure, the organization which manage insurance programs including the Affordable Care Act in Minnesota, is not planning many significant changes.

The same is not true on the federal level where the Trump Administration is doing its best to kill the ACA. The open enrollment period will last only six weeks, instead of the three months it did in previous years.

Critically, healthcare.gov, on which consumers enroll, will be shut down from 12 a.m. to 12 p.m. every Sunday except Dec. 10 and overnight on Nov. 1.

Funding for advertising to encourage enrollment has been slashed by 90 percent by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which administers the ACA. Funding for patient navigators, who help guide people through the enrollment process, has been gutted by 41 percent.

Finally, after months of threats, Trump canceled cost-sharing reimbursements to insurers. Many insurers have already increased rates to cover their reduced reimbursement from the federal government.

We don’t necessarily blame the Trump Administration for these cutbacks. He was elected last year with the promise to end the ACA. Since Congress hasn’t been able to do so, Trump is using the authority he has to end what his supporters believe is a bad law.

The best way for advocates of the law to respond is fill in the gaps so the numbers of individuals enrolling does not decline by as much as the administration hopes.

Supporters should develop their own advertising campaigns, and hire their own navigators if they want to make a difference in the current path.

The level of uncertainty about this coming year’s enrollment period doesn’t exist in Minnesota. But like everywhere elsewhere, we wonder if this will be the last year.