July 10 (UPI) -- The Trump administration announced on Tuesday it will cut funding to nonprofits known as "navigators" that help Americans sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.
Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has reduced program funding by 80 percent, The New York Times reported, and now allocates $10 million to the initiative. In President Barack Obama's last year in office, $63 million was spent on it.
Trump has also slashed the ACA's advertising budget by 90 percent.
Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the funding cut is meant to change an ineffective program. Navigators, the Trump administration has said, have only signed up about 1 percent of all people who enroll in ACA-approved programs each of the past two years. During the last year of the Obama administration, 17 navigators enrolled fewer than 100 people at an average cost of $5,000 per enrollee.
"It's time for the Navigator program to evolve, which is why we are announcing a new direction for the program today," Verma said in a statement. "This decision reflects CMS' commitment to put federal dollars for the Federally-facilitated Exchanges to their most cost effective use in order to better support consumers through the enrollment process."
"This move amounts to federally-funded fraud -- paying groups to sell unsuspecting Americans on junk plans," Wyden said.
The moves have been criticized as an attempt by Trump to dismantle the ACA, one of Obama's largest legislative achievements. And critics say it only serves to worsen healthcare in the United States.
"Given the continued attacks on healthcare, including federal rules allowing the resurgence of low-cost, junk health insurance plans, such as 'association health plans' and 'short-term plans', consumers looking for good, comprehensive coverage could be easily confused," Frederick Isasi, executive director of Families USA, a Democrat-leaning healthcare advocacy organization, told CNN. "This is a time when consumers need more help to understand the insurance options that are available to them -- not less."