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Affordable Care Act perseveres, despite Trump's efforts

The Trump administration wants credit for the ACA's resilience. That's demonstrably ridiculous.
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)
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.

Last fall, Ezekiel Emanuel, a veteran of the Obama White House, wrote an op-ed alerting the public to "the big secret" about the Affordable Care Act: "It's working just fine." A year later, as the New York Times reports, that assessment is holding up quite well.

Nearly three years into President Trump's aggressive efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act, prices for the most popular type of health insurance plan offered through the health law's federal marketplace will actually drop next year, and the number of insurers offering plans will go up.Administration officials credited Mr. Trump with the resiliency of the law even as they echoed his contempt for it. [...]The 4-percent price decline is only the second time that average monthly premiums have dropped year-to-year since the marketplace opened in 2014, and it is a sign that the health law is stabilizing after several years of turmoil caused in part by Mr. Trump.

This news comes on the heels of a recent Washington Post report on the success "Obamacare" has had in saving the lives of many Americans.

As a political matter, however, the idea that Donald Trump, of all people, deserves credit for the ACA's resiliency is demonstrably ridiculous. Circling back to our earlier coverage, the Republican president first declared the death of the Affordable Care Act on March 17, 2017. “I also want people to know that Obamacare is dead,” he said. “It’s a dead health care plan. It’s not even a health care plan…. Obamacare is not an alternative. It’s not there. It’s dead. It’s dead. ” He hadn’t quite been in office for two months.

The Republican proceeded to repeat the claim obsessively for months, telling anyone who’d listen that the health care reform law is “dead.” “Gone.” “Absolutely dead.” “Finished.” A “dead carcass.”

In the months that followed, this White House went to extraordinary lengths to sabotage the health care system, only to fail to kill its target. The ACA is persevering, but that's happening despite Trump, not because of him.

Looking ahead, however, the reform law's future remains uncertain. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is still weighing a Republican lawsuit that intends to destroy the Affordable Care Act in its entirety, including the elimination of protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. The Trump administration -- which is to say, the folks who believe the president deserves credit for the law's ability to endure -- endorsed the litigation and asked courts to destroy the existing system, its protections, and its benefits.

A ruling from the appeals court could come at any time.

Even if the law survives the latest court challenge, there's still the legislative threat to consider. Earlier this year, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that if Republicans fare well in the 2020 elections, "I can promise you ... we're going to repeal Obamacare."

Last month, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) echoed the message, emphasizing that ACA repeal remains a Republican priority.

The fact that the health care law is working appears to be an inconvenient detail for which the party has no use.