WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 12: U.S. President Donald Trump signs an executive order as Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Vice President Mike Pence, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R...
Alex Wong

Trump ignored warnings on the ACA, consumers will pay the price

Updated

No one should be surprised. When Donald Trump took steps to sabotage the health care system, as part of a political campaign against the Affordable Care Act, every relevant voice in the debate – insurers, hospitals, medical professionals, industry experts, et al – told the president that he would make things worse for the public.

There’s fresh evidence that those warnings were correct.

Two of Virginia’s ObamaCare insurers are requesting significant premium hikes for 2019, according to initial filings released Friday.

Both Cigna and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield cited policies advocated by the Trump administration, including the repeal of ObamaCare’s individual mandate, as part of its justifications for the increases.

When former HHS Secretary Tom Price accidentally told the truth last week about the effects of his party’s agenda, this is what he was referring to.

As complex as health care can be – everyone except the president knows how complicated it can be – this is quite simple. Trump took deliberate steps he knew would make health care coverage more expensive for millions of American consumers, and as a consequence, health care coverage is becoming more expensive for millions of American consumers.

Chet Burrell, the CEO of CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, conceded last week to the Washington Post that he fears the system is “materially worse” under Trump. He added, “Continuing actions on the part of the administration to systematically undermine the market and make it almost impossible to carry out the mission.”

In this case, the “mission” is to provide health care coverage to the public.

Before anyone suggests this is the natural result of an effective ACA model, it’s important to understand how wrong that argument is. Chet Burrell went on to say, “Did Obamacare work? Did the people who needed the coverage get it? Hell, yes.”

That was before Trump and congressional Republicans got to work – not repealing the ACA, but weakening the system in ways that impose fresh financial burdens on families for no good reason other than partisan spite.

The manifestation of the GOP campaign isn’t just seen in higher premiums; it’s also evident in the rising uninsured rate. We started seeing some hints of this in January, and the Commonwealth Fund bolstered the point with new data last week.

In theory, the stage appears to be set for a severe political backlash. Republican officials, for reasons they hardly even try to explain, made health coverage more expensive for millions, while imposing changes that left a growing number of Americans without coverage. If those adversely affected cast a ballot in November, the GOP should have a very bad day on Nov. 6.

In practice, is this likely? Maybe. Vox’s Dylan Scott had a good piece on this a couple of weeks ago.

Progressive operatives note that 2019 premiums are supposed to be announced in October – just a few weeks before the election. Given that last year’s premium increases were rightly attributed to Trump’s sabotage – and that voters tend to blame the party in power anyway for what is right or wrong with their health care – that could provide more ammunition for the Democrats in their final attacks right before voters head to the polls.

From special elections over the past year, we know health care has been a powerful motivator for Democratic voters. In his razor-thin win in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, Democrat Conor Lamb decisively won the health care vote. Then in this week’s Arizona special House election, Democrat Hiral Tipirneni made health care her signature issue – and, while she didn’t win, she lost to Republican Debbie Lesko by just [four] points in a district that Donald Trump won by 21. […]

Republicans can’t undo all of the damage of the past year. They have already voted for various unpopular repeal bills that would have left 20 million fewer Americans with health insurance and that would have unwound protections for people with preexisting conditions. Their Obamacare stabilization plans have now failed too.

The GOP strategy, at least for now, is to downplay health care as an issue altogether, abandon the party’s incessant “repeal” palaver, and hope voters’ attention lies elsewhere.

That’s a risky bet: Gallup found in March that health care access and affordability was the top worry on Americans’ minds. That’s hardly a recipe for Republican success in the fall.