Among the many other problems facing the Republican plan to repeal Obamacare, it turns out that one of their hastily-added "improvements" to the bill could leave 7 million military veterans ineligible for health care tax credits. When asked about the snafu, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer had no idea what reporters were talking about.
In their desperation to gain votes for their unpopular plan to repeal Obamacare, House Republicans inserted a raft of "improvements" to the bill, including one that could harm up to 7 million veterans by making them ineligible for the bill's tax credits.
Former Policy Advisor for the House Republican Conference under Chairman Mike Pence Chris Jacobs discovered the disastrous tweak, and described its impact:
The most recent estimates suggest about 9.1 million individuals are enrolled in VA health programs. However, a 2014 Congressional Budget Office score of veterans’ choice legislation concluded that “about 8 million [veterans] qualify to enroll in VA’s health system but have not enrolled.” Subtracting for VA enrollment gains since that CBO score leaves approximately seven million veterans eligible for, but not enrolled in, VA health programs, and thus potentially affected by the House’s “technical” change.
Will Fischer, Iraq War Veteran and Director of Government Outreach for VoteVets, slammed the plan in an email statement:
"What started as a bad bill has now turned into a grotesque Frankenstein monster, a crude and rushed patchwork of mini-bills that hurt people who can least afford it.
Now, we find out that Trumpcare will strip tax credits from potentially millions of veterans, and flood the VA with new patients at a time the VA is understaffed to handle a rush, thanks to the Donald Trump’s hiring freeze.
Since the freeze went into effect, we've already seen wait times lengthen; the claims backlog that President Obama had virtually eliminated, starting to grow again. This will only cause things to get worse.
We cannot put it more simply than this: Trumpcare will punish veterans. You cannot be pro-veteran and vote for Trumpcare.”
Despite the fact that veterans are a core constituency for Donald Trump (albeit one which Trump frequently harms), White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was completely unaware of the problem when asked about it by reporter John Gizzi, and unforgivably ignorant about veterans' health care in general:
GIZZI: Several publications, including Sara's, reported today that as a result of a change of a few words, veterans who benefited from the a program called Veterans' Affairs or had the option of getting tax credits would now get neither under the new legislation, and that seven million veterans would be cost health care. Is the administration following this, and is urging Congress to do anything about it?
SPICER: Most veterans get their health care through Tri-care, or through Medicare if they're over 65, or a combination thereof, correct?
GIZZI: And this is — well, but there's two programs: One is the Veterans' Affairs program, and the other is the option, this is under the current law, to have tax credits. And my understanding, again from Sara's publication this morning and several others, is that seven million veterans could possibly lose both under this plan.
SPICER: Yeah, I — I'd have to follow-up with you, I'm not aware of any modifications to Tri-care, in particular, that would have that effect.
As Jacobs noted, almost half of veterans are not enrolled in VA health care, and the change at issue, as Gizzi said, has nothing at all to do with Tri-care.
Spicer's ignorance of a widely-reported flaw in Trump's own health care bill is further evidence of either this White House's callousness or its incompetence — or both.