Trump administration pulls some Obamacare ads as deadline nears

The Trump administration has pulled some advertising designed to encourage people to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, days before the final deadline to buy 2017 health plans under the law.

The Department of Health and Human Services withdrew about $5 million of advertising, according to Matt Lloyd, a spokesman for the department.

He said that represented "some" but not all of the ads scheduled to run before the Jan. 31 deadline.

"The federal government has spent more than $60 million promoting the open enrollment period," Lloyd said in an e-mail. "HHS has pulled back roughly $5 million of the final placement in an effort to look for efficiencies where they exist."

Trump campaigned on a promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and signed an executive order on his first day in office directing federal agencies to work to minimize the law's economic and regulatory burdens.

Withdrawing the ads could depress enrollment in the law's markets, a closely watched indicator of how Obamacare is faring.

Politico reported the withdrawals earlier Thursday, saying the advertising had already been paid for by the Obama administration.

Lloyd said the $5 million would be returned to the government.

Politico also said HHS had stopped sending e-mails to encourage people to enroll in health plans.

Kevin Counihan, the former chief executive officer of the federal HealthCare.gov enrollment site, said the move risks lowering enrollment for 2017. That's because many people sign up right at the deadline, he said in an e-mail.

"We know that more young people enroll during the final days of open enrollment, but they need to be reminded of the Jan. 31 deadline," he said. "Having health insurance is still law of the land. If the president and Republicans in Congress want to change that, they should come up with a plan and show it to the American people."