Donald Trump made repealing the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) a key plank in his campaign platform. It became the first legislative project of his administration. But after four months of his presidency he has failed to deliver on his promises. Consequently, he is seeking other routes to force his anti-healthcare policies onto a nation that wants to keep and improve ObamaCare.
Trump has repeatedly claimed that ObamaCare is dead. It isn’t. However, Trump is doing everything in his power to murder it. Just his false characterizations of it being in a “death spiral” makes insurance carriers nervous and unwilling to expose themselves to that artificially created risk.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Trump has approached health insurance providers with an offer to put more money in their pockets. The proposal involves the funds paid by the government for the premium subsidies that make health insurance affordable for low-income Americans. These are called “cost-sharing reductions,” or CSRs. Trump has been threatening to cut off this funding in his quest to cripple ObamaCare. But his offer comes with a caveat. In exchange for continuing the CSRs, the providers must support his wildly unpopular bill to kill ObamaCare. That’s the bill that recently passed in the House of Representatives. The Senate is not expected to take it up. So offering to retain the CSRs in exchange for political support amounts to a bribe.
What’s more, Trump is effectively admitting that he is lying about ObamaCare being dead. His threat to ax CSRs undercuts the claim that insurance marketplaces are collapsing on their own. The Times notes that the more likely cause of chaos in the industry is Trump himself:
“Health insurers across the country are making plans to dramatically raise Obamacare premiums or exit marketplaces amid growing exasperation with the Trump administration’s erratic management, inconsistent guidance and seeming lack of understanding of basic healthcare issues.
“At the same time, state insurance regulators — both Democrat and Republican — have increasingly concluded they cannot count on the Trump administration to help them ensure that consumers will have access to a health plan next year. […]
“Instead, according to many officials, it is the Trump administration that is driving much of the current instability by refusing to commit to steps to keep markets running, such as funding aid for low-income consumers or enforcing penalties for people who go without insurance.”
Trump’s Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator, Seema Verma, made the politically motivated bribe in a recent meeting with providers. According to the Times she told them that Trump “would fund the CSRs if insurers supported the House Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.” But the providers were less than receptive. In fact, they later signed on to a letter sent to the Senate spelling out their concerns. The signatories include a broad array on health industry players. They include: America’s Health Insurance Plans, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Benefits Council, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Federation of American Hospitals, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The preamble to their letter says that:
“[W]e are writing again to you as leaders in Congress to express our serious concerns about the continued uncertainty around funding for cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments. There now is clear evidence that this uncertainty is undermining the individual insurance market for 2018 and stands to negatively impact millions of people.”
In addition to using the CSRs to bribe insurance companies, Trump has used them to blackmail Congress. Politico reports that he is employing a tactic aimed at forcing Democrats to negotiate. Even though “Many advisers oppose the move because they worry it would backfire politically if people lose their insurance or see huge premium spikes and blame the White House.”
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Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
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In any case, it’s a cynical move where the potential victims are not members of Congress, but average Americans. Trump is holding a virtual gun to the heads of citizens and telling Congress he’ll shoot if they don’t pass his bill. Between that threat and his bribery of insurance carriers, Trump’s proving that he couldn’t care less about the American people. They are merely hostages in his quest to give the wealthy tens of thousands of dollars in tax cuts. And if 24 million people lose their health insurance, that isn’t his problem.
UPDATE 5/22/17: Democrats in Congress are requesting information and documents pertaining to this attempted bribe/hostage taking by the Trump administration.