The pattern is familiar: the public learns of discouraging news about the health care system; the right seizes on the news as evidence against the Affordable Care Act; and a closer look at the news shows the developments are less about “Obamacare” and more about the damage Donald Trump is doing to the markets.
This happened again yesterday, when Anthem, a major private insurer, announced that it’s withdrawing from Nevada’s exchanges. For the right, including the president himself, this was fresh proof that the ACA isn’t working, but those who take a closer look at the coverage know there’s more to the story. Take this Reuters report, for example:
Anthem blamed the moves in part on uncertainty over whether the Trump administration would maintain subsidies that keep costs down.
U.S. President Donald Trump last week threatened to cut off subsidy payments that make the plans affordable for lower-income Americans and help insurers to keep premiums down, after efforts to repeal the law signed by his predecessor, President Barack Obama, failed in Congress.
The Nevada Independent published a similar report, which stressed the same point.
The [Nevada] exchange’s executive director Heather Korbulic said that uncertainty over whether cost-sharing reduction payments from the federal government to insurance carriers will continue and whether any changes to the individual mandate have created “constant ambiguity” for insurers. President Donald Trump has been deciding whether to continue the payments, which help lower deductibles and copays for roughly 7 million low income individuals who buy insurance on the exchange, on a month-by-month basis, referring to them as a “bailout” for insurance companies.
“The insurance companies need some assurances about the cost-sharing reductions and this month-to-month stuff has become increasingly burdensome in terms of volatility. They can’t anticipate what their risk will look like if they don’t know they’re going to get cost-sharing reductions,” Korbulic said. “It’s unnecessarily dramatic in a market that relies on certainty — or at least some certainty – about what risk will look like.”
In other words, were it not for Trump’s pointless and dangerous political games, consumers wouldn’t be feeling the adverse effects right now. What looks at the surface like a story about the Affordable Care Act struggling is actually a story about the White House undermining the nation’s health care system out of partisan spite.
This phenomenon isn’t unique. Last week, Donald Trump used his Twitter account to promote this Fox News report on health care consumers facing premium increases. It’s unlikely the president read the piece before promoting it: the report explained that “insurers are concerned about Trump’s threat to halt payments to the industry that in turn help bring down costs, as well as whether Republicans will continue to enforce the individual mandate to buy insurance.”
The piece added that a private insurer in Montana “linked the bulk of its proposed 23 percent increase to those two concerns.”
This isn’t complicated: the more Republicans play games with health care, the harder it is on consumers. That doesn’t reflect poorly on “Obamacare”; it reflects poorly on those trying to undermine “Obamacare.”