Donald Trump is mulling a cruel and insane plot to destroy the health insurance exchanges to effectively kill Obamacare, and then blame Democrats.
Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare have not gone as smoothly as they promised last November — or for the last seven years.
The House, which passed its bill without waiting for a score from the Congressional Budget Office, may have to completely redo it, and the Senate is writing its own fresh bill amid a shroud of secrecy.
But Donald Trump thinks he has found a way to kill Obamacare without any bill from Congress.
In a joint press conference with the president of Colombia, Trump gave a dark hint of what he is planning for insurance markets:
Obamacare is collapsing. It’s dead; it’s gone. There’s nothing to compare anything to because we don't have health care in this country. You just look at what’s happening. Aetna just pulled out. Other insurance companies are pulling out. We don't have healthcare. Obamacare is a fallacy. It’s gone. We need healthcare.
In fact, many insurers are pulling out of the exchanges because Trump is deliberately defunding them.
At issue are cost-sharing reduction payments. Insurers receive $7 billion annually to keep premiums down for low-income people in the individual markets. House Republicans filed a lawsuit alleging the payments were not legally appropriated, and Trump has told his advisers he wants to drop the government's appeal of the ruling, effectively killing the payments.
This would be a disaster for millions of people. Without cost-sharing reduction, insurers would be forced to hike premiums considerably, or stop selling in certain markets entirely, which would affect even people who do not receive subsidies.
Some insurers are already warning if the subsidies stop, they will end Obamacare plans, including Anthem, which currently covers over 830,000 people in 14 states and is the only insurer in some rural areas, and Molina Healthcare, which could drop 700,000 members just this year.
In fact, the mere threat that subsidies might not continue has already caused several insurers to raise premiums.
Even Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is advising Trump against killing the subsidies right now.
Meanwhile, in a joint letter, Blue Cross Blue Shield, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the American Association of Family Physicians, the Federation of American Hospitals, the American Benefits Council, the insurer trade group AHIP, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are all urging Congress to directly appropriate money for the subsidies so that Trump cannot end them.
Trump, who has floated the idea of sabotaging Obamacare before, believes he can destroy insurance markets and simply blame Democrats in Congress for creating the markets in the first place. However, a Kaiser Foundation poll shows 61 percent of voters, including 65 percent of independents, will blame Trump and Republicans in Congress if the exchanges created through Obamacare fail.
Obamacare has saved lives and provided 20 million people with coverage they had previously been denied. The idea of a president taking away medical and economic security for the poor and sick, just to score a cheap political win, is despicable. The American people cannot stand for Trump playing games with their lives.