Having failed to bully the Republican controlled Congress to approve what would have been disastrous legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Trump is now resorting to sabotaging the law through an action that threatens to make it virtually impossible for many current ACA subscribers to afford coverage in the coming year.
The White House confirmed yesterday that it would end subsidy payments to insurance companies that have been used to reduce premiums for millions of low income so they could afford coverage. The subsidies total about $7 billion this year.
The action came after Trump issued an executive order to help alternative health plans issue lower cost policies that do not meet ACA coverage requirements. His contention is that those policies will be more affordable and make it easier for people to have coverage. However, what that coverage would be is in question.
Advocates say Trump's executive order is intended to expand choices and alternatives to ACA individual and small group market insurance plans and increase competition, thus reducing costs to consumers.
But the order throws a huge curve at health insurance companies just as they are preparing to enroll subscribers for 2018. The fifth year’s open-enrollment season for consumers to buy coverage through ACA exchanges begins in less than three weeks, and insurers have warned that stopping the cost-sharing payments would be the single greatest step Trump could take to damage the marketplaces — and the law. And the victims? Those who now rely on the ACA for health insurance coverage.
“Millions of Americans rely on these benefits to afford their coverage and care,” said Kristine Grow, a spokesperson for America's Health Insurance Plans, a trade group representing the nation's health insurance companies that has warned that cutting those subsidies would be a disastrous mistake.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has been fighting to preserve the subsidy payments through litigation, said the president’s action “would be sabotage” and that he was ready to take the Trump administration to court over the matter.
Meanwhile, a Senate committee has been working on ways to prop up the ACA marketplaces -- an action that would seem to be more urgent in the face of Trump's latest action.
You can also bet that this act of administrative sabotage will be used by Trump to "prove" that the ACA is a failure and a "nightmare", largely because premiums will have soared beyond belief.