One of the oddities of Donald Trump's decision to cut off cost-sharing reduction payments to private health insurers is that literally no one benefits from the move. Usually, at least someone benefits from Republican health care measures, even if the underlying idea is misguided, but in this case, everyone loses from the president's gambit on CSRs.
It takes effort to come up with a policy proposal this foolish. In one move, Trump has managed to hurt consumers, hurt insurers, hurt the health care market, and raise the deficit, creating a bizarre dynamic in which the country will pay more and get less. What's more, the Associated Press found that 70% of those who benefit from cost-sharing reduction payments live in red states.
In other words, the White House is not only making the health care system worse on purpose; it's also hurting parts of its political base.
The question, of course, is why. Steve Bannon, the president's former chief strategist, said over the weekend that Trump's goal is to "blow up" insurance markets, which is an amazing thing for him to admit out loud.
The president had a different explanation.
REPORTER: You promised that you would help people who are struggling. The CSR payment looks like it will hurt low-income people.
TRUMP: The CSR payments, if you take a look at CSR payments, that money is going to insurance companies to prop up insurance companies.
REPORTER: To help lower-income people.
TRUMP: That money is going to insurance companies to lift up their stock price, and that's not what I'm about. Take a look at who those insurance companies support, and I guarantee you one thing: It's not Donald Trump.
The president is badly confused about his own actions. The money goes to insurers to cover out-of-pocket costs for lower-income Americans. Ending the CSR payments may hurt insurers stock prices -- something Trump was especially excited about over the weekend for reasons he didn't explain -- but it also directly hurts those who benefit from the payments, while indirectly hurting everyone through increases in premiums.
The list of critics of the president's ridiculous decision isn't short -- and it includes plenty of Republicans.