Republicans have repeatedly tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act, to no avail. Sometime last December, though, an informational page on the ACA’s impact on Medicare mysteriously disappeared from the official Medicare website, according to a report from the Web Integrity Project released this week.
The removed page, the report said, “included information and links related to Medicare coverage being protected under the health care law, preventive services covered under Medicare, discounts on brand-name prescription drugs, and initiatives that support care coordination between provider.” Additionally, links to “The Affordable Care Act & Medicare” were removed from other pages on the Medicare website, including its “About” page and another called “Medicare & the Marketplace.”
Rachel Bergman is the author of the report and director of programs at the Web Integrity Project, a subset of the transparency advocacy group The Sunlight Foundation which tracks changes to government websites under Trump. Speaking with The Outline, she said it was unclear why the page was taken down with no warning and why it was never replaced. “We can’t say anything about intention; we are monitoring and documenting changes to websites,” Bergman said. The fact that no one knows why the page was taken down, she said, “is a big reason this type of removal is something that matters.”
Around the same time the page was scrubbed from the internet, Congress passed a tax bill that, aside from financing a tax cut for the corporations and the wealthy, repealed the individual mandate that is a key part of the ACA. “The fact is that while the Affordable Care Act is still law, its future is still uncertain,” Bergman said. “There are parts of the ACA that affect Medicare, so when information about a law is removed, it becomes a little confusing, especially when there are all these questions of whether there will be a repeal, whether certain portions are still in place.”
Reached for comment, a spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said that the page was taken down because it was “no longer relevant or needed” due to “outdated content and low usage,” and noted that there is a similar page called Medicare & the Marketplace. In a blog post, the Sunlight Foundation pointed out that the ACA & Medicare page linked to the Medicare & the Marketplace page, meaning that the latter page became inaccessible via the Medicare website’s about page once the former was taken down. “With the uncertain future of the ACA, the fact that portions of it have been affected by the recent tax law, and the many implications a repeal of the law would have on Medicare beneficiaries, any removal of information about the ACA can be particularly confusing,” Bergman wrote. And, as Bergman notes, the page was removed with no notice — when people try to access it now, it’s simply a dead link that doesn’t redirect to the Medicare & the Marketplace page.
After the tax bill passed in December, President Donald Trump incorrectly told reporters that the ACA was dead. “When the individual mandate is repealed,” Trump said, “that means Obamacare is repealed.”
The removal of the Medicare page has the potential to make it harder for Medicare recipients to access information about their healthcare needs. Of course, though that part of the website is down — and has been for over five months — the ACA is still very much intact. For now, that is. Maybe next year, Congress will introduce a new healthcare bill where every American is entitled to like, a first-aid kit stocked full of children’s ibuprofen or something.
Update 5/17/2018, 1:40 p.m. This post has been updated with a statement from a spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, as well as with quotes from Bergman's blog post on the Sunlight Foundation's site