To hear Republican officials and candidates tell it, they're fully on board with the Affordable Care Act's protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. Donald Trump, in particular, has insisted at every recent campaign rally that he and his party should be seen as champions of progressive health care safeguards.
By any sane measure, the argument is indefensible. Not only have these GOP politicians spent years trying to tear them down, they're also championing a lawsuit that would strip millions of families of the protections Republicans now pretend to support.
But as we were reminded yesterday, that's not they're doing. The New York Times reported:
The Trump administration announced a new policy on Monday making it easier for states to circumvent coverage requirements and consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act.
States could, for example, use federal funds to subsidize short-term insurance plans with skimpy benefits and fewer protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
Coming two weeks before Election Day, the new policy appeared to be a political gift to Democrats, who are making health care a potent campaign theme.
As is usually the case, the details get a little complicated, but at issue are the ACA "1332 waivers," which allow states to implement their own reforms, each of which must meet minimum standards established under "Obamacare."
These new developments have the effect of encouraging states to exploit the policy and, as a Vox report put it, "set up their own alternatives to the health care law."
The HuffPost's Jonathan Cohn added that the newly announced rule change "almost certainly means that, overall, people with serious medical problems are likely to have a harder time finding coverage -- and, ultimately, paying their medical bills."
Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, told Cohn, "This new guidance allows states to set up parallel insurance markets that may be able to attract healthy people with plans that have lower premiums but fewer consumer protections, leaving ACA plans with a sicker pool and higher premiums."