Short of repealing the Affordable Care Act — which thus far they have been unable to do — President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans have done everything they can to undermine President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement.
Despite all their efforts — getting rid of the individual mandate, eliminating reimbursements to insurance companies for reducing out-of-pocket costs for low-income customers, cutting the open enrollment period in half, refusing to defend the Affordable Care Act against yet another lawsuit challenging its constitutionality — the Obamacare market refuses to collapse.
At a Cabinet meeting last year after the repeal of the individual mandate, Trump boasted, “We have essentially repealed Obamacare.”
But data from health insurers filing their 2019 proposed rates makes clear that the Obamacare market is far more stubborn and resilient than Republicans care to admit. In fact, some say it’s in its best shape ever. “The market is in a better position now than it has ever been since the exchanges have opened,” Deep Banerjee, who follows insurers for S&P Global Ratings, told the New York Times this week.
Not that GOP efforts to sabotage Obamacare haven’t had an impact. In Washington state, insurers are asking for an average premium increase of 19 percent, down from last year’s 36 percent. But according to the Washington state insurance commissioner, this year’s increase would be in the single digits if not for Trump’s actions.
Luckily, the vast majority of Obamacare recipients are shielded from the bulk of the increases because of the law’s subsidies to lower-income customers. Silver plan enrollees won’t see more than a 2 percent increase. In some states where reinsurance programs are being set up, insurers are even predicting steep declines in premiums.
Statistics released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show that 90 percent of enrollees are experiencing stable or declining premiums.
Those most hurt by the instability created by Republicans are Americans making 400 percent or more of the federal poverty level — about $48,000 a year for one person or $100,000 for a family of four. That’s when the subsidies disappear.
But taxpayers in general are also hurt. The Republican sabotage will mean a $17 billion increase in premium subsidies this year — which is essentially a self-inflicted wound.
Imagine a different world where Republicans and Trump set aside their irrational hostility to Obamacare. Rather than repeated, spectacularly unsuccessful attempts to repeal it — all of which would cost millions of Americans health care coverage — they instead worked to improve the law, stabilize the markets and lower the rate of health care inflation.
Such action appears beyond today’s GOP, sadly. Despite years of railing against Obamacare and literally dozens of votes taken to repeal it, the party has absolutely no ideas about how to replace it without drastically reducing health care coverage — and no apparent interest in developing them.
Trump can boast all he wants about how he has “essentially repealed Obamacare,” but he hasn’t. Nor has he ever revealed his own plan, which he promised would result in coverage for everyone, along with lower premiums and deductibles. We’re sure it’s a beautiful plan. It’s a shame Trump seems determined to keep it to himself.
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