Two months ago, Donald Trump made a seemingly unambiguous commitment
on the issue of health care: "We're going to have insurance for everybody." Soon after, BuzzFeed reported
that congressional Republicans were working under the assumption that the president didn't actually mean what he said, and were working on a plan that did not, in fact, cover all Americans.And as it turns out, GOP lawmakers were correct; Trump didn't mean a word of it. But this creates a political challenge for the White House: if the president guaranteed "insurance for everybody," and the Republican plan Trump supports would increase the ranks of the uninsured by tens of millions of Americans, how in the world is the president's team supposed to spin the obvious contradiction?The answer is, by pointing to the invisible fine print. Today, for example, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the administration supports coverage for "everybody who wants to get it
."See the difference?This came up a bit yesterday, when the Congressional Budget Office's report on "Trumpcare" was first unveiled, and news accounts noted that 14 million Americans would lose their coverage next year, and that number would expand to 24 million by 2026.Not so, Republicans said. Sure, an additional 14 million Americans may no longer have health security next year, and that total may grow to 24 million in a decade, but it's wrong to say they've "lost" their coverage. Rather, Republicans argue, it's correct to say these millions of people simply won't buy it.Consider a real-world example. The CBO score pointed to
a hypothetical, single individual with an annual income of $26,500. If that individual is young, say 21, he or she would fare quite well in terms of cheaper premiums under the American Health Care Act. But....
But if that person is 64 years old, he would be hurt by the Republican bill. Under Obamacare, he would also pay $1,700 in premiums for insurance. But under the Republican bill, he would pay $14,600 -- more than half his annual income. That amounts to more than a 750 percent increase in premiums from Obamacare to the Republican bill.
According to Republican rhetoric
, that person would almost certainly not buy insurance, which seems like a safe bet. But by the same GOP rules, we shouldn't say the 64-year-old consumer "lost" his/her health insurance; we should instead say he/he chose to go without coverage.I'd argue that a person making $26,500 a year, who suddenly sees a 750% increase in premiums from ACA levels to AHCA levels, isn't actually making a "choice." That person may want health security, but if it's prohibitively expensive, the "choice" has effectively, if not literally, been taken away.But Republicans continue to disagree. Millions may no longer have
coverage, they tell us, but that doesn't mean they've lost
coverage or had coverage taken away
from them. From today's White House press briefing
REPORTER: A follow up on coverage, you were saying that people if they can't get access to insurance they don't have coverage -SPICER: Right -REPORTER: But if you remove the individual mandate you are going to have people who are not going to buy that coverage they are not going to buy insurance and so getting back to the Congressional Budget Office score, would you concede that there will be some coverage losses, perhaps in the millions, that there will be millions of people who will not have health insurance as a result of what you are doing?SPICER: Well again, sure.
And that, my friends, is how the White House intends to spin, "We're going to have insurance for everybody." We've begun a mind-numbing semantics argument over the meaning of seemingly unambiguous words such as "everybody" and "lose."