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Monday, October 23, 2017

How Trump’s Effort to Gut Obamacare May Backfire

Cutting Insurance Company Subsidies Could Mean More Money for People
By Sarah Okeson

Pic of the MomentTrump’s difficulty grasping the arcane intricacies of how government works in this country could lead to actually increasing enrollment in Obamacare, the federal health insurance program that Trump hates so much.

Trump famously said in February that health-care law is “an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”

The Affordable Care Act is complicated. Covered California, the marketplace for the Affordable Care Act in California, ran some numbers when they were trying to figure out what the impact could be if Trump followed through on his threats to end payments to insurance companies to help them offer health insurance.

The analysis was done in January before Trump cut funding to help enrollment and cut the enrollment period in half so its predictions could be off. The White House confirmed Thursday that it will halt the payments to insurers.

What Covered California found is that enrollment could actually rise by about 14,000 statewide. That’s because financial help for low- and moderate-income consumers who buy the policies would increase as the prices of the policies rose.

The increased help means the net price for insurance for low- and moderate-income families would stay the same or fall, and more people would buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

About 20,000 more people in low- and moderate-income families would be covered. That would be offset by about 6,000 people who would drop coverage because they make too much to get financial help from the government and the prices would be too high.

It’s unclear how much enrollment could rise nationwide because the study was just done for California. The big loser is the federal government which would shoulder a 29% increase just in California.

The Congressional Budget Office calculated that ending the payments to insurance companies to help them offer insurance under the Affordable Care Act will increase the federal deficit by $194 billion over 10 years.

Congress could step in to reinstate the payments during budget negotiations.

“This is the equivalent of health-care arson,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) “He is literally setting the entire health-care system on fire just because the president is upset that the United States Congress won’t pass a repeal bill.”

States could also ask for waivers from the federal government that would potentially allow them to collect a windfall in tax dollars.

It works like this: the waivers, if approved, let states offer their own versions of the Affordable Care Act. The states can then keep money that the federal government would have otherwise spent. 

In California’s case, the state could craft a waiver to pay $750 million to insurers to help them fund the program and then turn around and collect $976 million from the federal government for the increased cost of help to consumers.

The net profit for California would be $226 million. More money that we, the taxpayers, would pay for Trump’s incompetence and hatred of Obamacare.

ACTION BOX / What You Can Do About It

A reminder: Trump has drastically cut the open enrollment season for 2018. It runs for just six weeks, from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15. If you need insurance, go to healthcare.gov to get started.


Let your senators and representatives know that you support the Affordable Care Act and oppose underhanded efforts by Trump and other Republicans to take away people’s health insurance. 

Rhode Island voters should know that all of the Rhode Island Congressional delegation opposes Trump’s attacks on the Affordable Care Act. Letting them know you support their efforts is a good thing to do.