A man holds a sign directing people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare in Miami, Fla in 2015.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty

Trump administration’s ACA sabotage campaign intensifies

In Mississippi, the federal Department of Health and Human Services has spent the last few years partnering with local advocacy groups to help lay the groundwork ahead of the open-enrollment period. Organizations and health care stakeholders could count on HHS officials to show up and make sure communities were well served.

Vox reported yesterday that things are different now that Donald Trump is in power.

Up until Monday, Roy Mitchell, executive director of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, thought these events were going forward in the coming weeks as planned. He had even asked HHS just last week for biographies of the officials they’d be sending.

But then two days ago, he received a short message from an agency official, which Mitchell shared with Vox: HHS wouldn’t be doing any Obamacare marketplace events in the South this year. No further explanation was provided.

Mitchell said this is “clearly sabotage,” and it’s hard to imagine anyone seriously arguing otherwise.

What’s more, Mississippi isn’t alone. BuzzFeed reported yesterday that HHS has 10 regional directors, and each of them “were told to not to participate in state-based events promoting open enrollment – a significant change from years past.”

It’s almost as if some in the Trump administration don’t want to help Americans receive the health care benefits they’re entitled to under the law.

In a written statement, HHS spokesperson Caitlin Oakley told news outlets, “The American people know a bad deal when they see one and many won’t be convinced to sign up for ‘Washington-knows-best’ health coverage that they can’t afford…. As Obamacare continues to collapse, HHS is carefully evaluating how we can best serve the American people who continue to be harmed by Obamacare’s failures.”

Of course, this sounds less like a federal official helping implement existing law and like a political operative with a partisan axe to grind.

Nevertheless, these latest developments add weight to the argument that the Trump administration is taking steps to sabotage the American system, motivated almost entirely by spite, and the consequences are quite real. NBC News’ Benjy Sarlin reported yesterday:

For months, insurers warned that the ongoing turmoil in Congress and threats from the White House to undermine Obamacare would force them to charge customers more – or not offer plans at all – in 2018.

“They say insurers don’t like uncertainty and things could not be any more uncertain,” said Sabrina Corlette, a Research Professor at the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University.

In a report this month, the Congressional Budget Office estimated this confusion would be responsible for a 15 percent increase in premiums next year.

It’s no exaggeration to say Republicans are taking deliberate steps to make health care less affordable for the American public. By all appearances, their principal goal is not to help bring health security to families, but rather, to create poor conditions so they’ll have partisan talking points.

The fact remains, however, that if the Affordable Care Act were as inherently awful as its opponents claim, a sabotage campaign wouldn’t be necessary.