The full extent of the Trump Admin's Memory Holing of the ACA is finally laid bare

But actually, he thought as he re-adjusted the Ministry of Plenty’s figures, it was not even forgery. It was merely the substitution of one piece of nonsense for another. Most of the material that you were dealing with had no connexion with anything in the real world, not even the kind of connexion that is contained in a direct lie. Statistics were just as much a fantasy in their original version as in their rectified version. A great deal of the time you were expected to make them up out of your head.

For example, the Ministry of Plenty’s forecast had estimated the output of boots for the quarter at 145 million pairs. The actual output was given as sixty-two millions. Winston, however, in rewriting the forecast, marked the figure down to fifty-seven millions, so as to allow for the usual claim that the quota had been overfulfilled. In any case, sixty-two millions was no nearer the truth than fifty-seven millions, or than 145 millions. Very likely no boots had been produced at all. Likelier still, nobody knew how many had been produced, much less cared. All one knew was that every quarter astronomical numbers of boots were produced on paper, while perhaps half the population of Oceania went barefoot. And so it was with every class of recorded fact, great or small. Everything faded away into a shadow-world in which, finally, even the date of the year had become uncertain.

--George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

November 15, 2016:

Given Trump's long, disturbing history of flat-out misstatements (aka "making sh*t up out of whole cloth"), and the type of sycophants he's likely to put into place, I can't guarantee with any certainty that the numbers spouted off by them are going to bear any connection with reality. Maybe they'll be accurate. Maybe they'll be off slightly. Maybe they'll be completely removed from any actual numbers. Who the hell knows?

December 20, 2016:

Scientists are frantically copying U.S. climate data, fearing it might vanish under Trump

Alarmed that decades of crucial climate measurements could vanish under a hostile Trump administration, scientists have begun a feverish attempt to copy reams of government data onto independent servers in hopes of safeguarding it from any political interference.

The efforts include a “guerrilla archiving” event in Toronto, where experts will copy irreplaceable public data, meetings at the University of Pennsylvania focused on how to download as much federal data as possible in the coming weeks, and a collaboration of scientists and database experts who are compiling an online site to harbor scientific information.

July 20, 2017:

Team Trump Used Obamacare Money to Run PR Effort Against It

The administration is tasked with overseeing the health care law. Instead, it has made a major social media push to undermine it.

The Trump administration has spent taxpayer money meant to encourage enrollment in the Affordable Care Act on a public relations campaign aimed at methodically strangling it.

The effort, which involves a multi-pronged social media push as well as video testimonials designed at damaging public opinion of President Obama’s health care law, is far more robust and sustained than has been publicly revealed or realized.

July 21, 2017:

I was sent this note yesterday morning:

"FYI-re: the ACA web stuff. I'm a federal contractor. We've been told to go back and remove all references to the ACA on an HHS website I work on--including blog posts for years. Obviously I'm posting under a pseudonym, but I think people need to know that we are living in the novel 1984. They are actively trying to destroy the historical record."

I asked for verification to make sure this person wasn't bullshitting me at the time, and they provided it (I've obviously redacted their info, but yes, I confirmed their identity and verified their claim about which contractor they worked for at the time).

I wish I had a hard copy to give you. It was announced XXXXXXX. I don't even know if it came down via email—knowing this bunch they called so there wouldn't be anything to FOIA...

...FWIW, my real name is XXXXXXX and I've been XXXXXXXX. You can email me directly at XXXXXXX or call me at XXXXXXXX to verify if you like.

And if this information were to get out, I have two kids and two dogs who might end up homeless. I probably should never have said anything...

Cut to nearly four years later. Via Tierney Sneed of Talking Points Memo this morning:

An Inside Look At How Trump Scrubbed Obamacare From HHS Websites

There was no better symbol of the Trump administration’s plans for sabotaging the Affordable Care Act than how, soon after the inauguration, its Department of Health and Human Services prioritized erasing mentions of the law on its web page.

The removals, as blatant as they were petty, quickly caught the attention of health care experts and portended a broader Trump effort to shirk its duties to implement the law, even after it became clear Congress was going to be unable to repeal it.

But the extent of the erasure effort is only just now becoming clear. New documents recently obtained by TPM give a fresh view into how sweeping and systematic this purge of ACA mentions was, and how, four years later, federal public health websites are still devoid of key references to the law.

The documents confirm long-held suspicions that the Trump administration ordered federal contractors to conduct an expansive keyword search for any place that the 2010 law was mentioned on the webpages of various HHS offices.

The search turned up hundreds of examples, and without much apparent debate, many of those mentions were ordered removed. The administration wasn’t taking a scalpel to the Affordable Care Act’s web presence to make it more reflective of Trump’s goals for reworking the law. It was pounding the law off the website with a sledgehammer.

While there were some carve-outs in the project for certain types of Obamacare references, other allusions to the ACA were scrubbed with seemingly no regard to the public health consequences of obscuring information about the law.

Providers who might be looking for regulatory information on Obamacare policies no longer see a link to the law on the HHS’ main regulations page, thanks to the 2017 removal job. Women seeking information about contraceptive care had information withheld from them about the Affordable Care Act’s coverage requirements for those preventative services.

The documents detailing the way in which mentions of the law were removed from federal websites were obtained by TPM through a 2017 Freedom of Information Act request.

Indications that the Trump administration was making aggressive efforts to suppress information about the law — going far beyond how a new administration typically may boost or play down its predecessors’ policy initiatives — were picked up on in 2017, as Congress embarked on its repeal effort.

As an aside, the timing of that FOIA request is not coincidental; as Ms. Sneed informed me a few weeks ago:

Funnily enough, the FOIA was inspired by a tweet of yours, when, around the time reporters were noticing that ACA references were being removed from the HHS website, you tweeted about a contractor who had been roped into that effort.

I'm proud to have played a small part in the unearthing of this ugly story, even if it couldn't be published until over three and a half years later.

Read Sneed's full piece. It's a deep, deep dive into not just how far the Trump Admin went to erase every mention of the ACA from existence, but also the ham-handed, chainsaw-instead-of-a-scalpel manner in which they did it. It's not a pretty picture.