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HealthCare.gov homepage. Photo: Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

The Health and Human Services Department edited HealthCare.gov in a way that seems to subtly steer people toward other, private enrollment options, according to a review by the Sunlight Foundation.

Details: The edits, which were made roughly two weeks into the six-week enrollment period, affect the “How to Apply & Enroll” page on HealthCare.gov.

  • Two enrollment options — phone and mail — were removed altogether. Unpaid enrollment “assisters,” whose budgets have been cut significantly, were rolled in with agents and brokers.
  • The option to use HealthCare.gov went from the first option listed to the last.
  • Above it are links to external enrollment sites run by for-profit companies, including insurers’ websites. That’s consistent with HHS’ desire to open up more “direct enrollment” pathways, but some of those pathways may not list all of consumers’ options.

My thought bubble: On the merits, this does not seem particularly likely to set back overall enrollment very much. Hardly anyone enrolls by mail, and other parts of HealthCare.gov, including its homepage, still list the number of the call center for people who want help over the phone.

  • Still, coming as it does on top of outreach cuts and policy changes that weaken the Affordable Care Act, don’t be surprised if this sparks new criticism from the law’s supporters.

Go deeper

3 hours ago - Health

Food banks feel the strain without holiday volunteers

People wait in line at Food Bank Community Kitchen on Nov. 25 in New York City. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Food Bank For New York City

America's food banks are sounding the alarm during this unprecedented holiday season.

The big picture: Soup kitchens and charities, usually brimming with holiday volunteers, are getting far less help.

5 hours ago - Health

AstraZeneca CEO: "We need to do an additional study" on COVID vaccine

Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said on Thursday the company is likely to start a new global trial to measure how effective its coronavirus vaccine is, Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: Following Phase 3 trials, Oxford and AstraZeneca said their vaccine was 90% effective in people who got a half dose followed by a full dose, and 62% effective in people who got two full doses.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases rose 10% in the week before Thanksgiving.
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions.
  3. World: Expert says COVID vaccine likely won't be available in Africa until Q2 of 2021 — Europeans extend lockdowns.
  4. Economy: The winners and losers of the COVID holiday season.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.