After campaigning on a platform long on platitudes and short on specifics, President-elect Donald Trump this week started to reveal what he has in store for the nation’s health care system – and many Californians aren’t going to like what they hear.
Trump, who promised to replace Obamacare with “something terrific,” chose Rep. Tom Price, a tea party Republican from suburban Atlanta and one of Obamacare’s fiercest critics, as his nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.
Unlike Trump, Price, a surgeon, doesn’t speak in generalities when it comes to dismembering the Affordable Care Act. In fact, he authored a 242-page bill that is even more draconian than the Obamacare repeal plan pushed by House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Price would let insurance companies more than double rates on people with pre-existing conditions who have lost their insurance. He also proposes a full repeal of the Medicaid expansion that covers millions of poor people. Ryan would allow states that expanded Medicaid to keep it, but with far fewer federal dollars.
Either plan spells trouble for California, home to about a quarter of the more than 20 million people who have received insurance through Obamacare. Most of those new enrollees are covered by Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program, with the help of $15 billion from Uncle Sam.
If that funding evaporates or is slashed, California will either have to find billions of dollars or begin cutting care.
It gets worse. Price supports the Republican drive to dismantle Medicare, the government-run health insurance program that covers 55 million seniors. If you think Trump will stand in the GOP’s way just because he said during the campaign that Medicare was off-limits, take a look at his website.
Instead of holding firm to his pledge to safeguard Medicare, he now wants to “modernize” it. That’s code for privatization. Medicare isn’t the problem. It’s the solution – for everybody.
There are straightforward fixes to make Obamacare more affordable. But the best remedy is to move everyone to a single-payer system like Medicare. Most Americans seem to agree. A Gallup poll conducted this year found that 58 percent of those surveyed supported replacing the Affordable Care Act with a single-payer system.
Even Trump was once a supporter, saying in a 1999 interview, “I believe in universal health care.” Now, instead of offering real solutions, Trump is apparently opening the door to a massive bait-and-switch.
That’s nothing new for him. But this time instead of cheating contractors at his hotels or students at his fake university, he is putting the most vulnerable among us at risk by appointing a man who wants to deprive them of health coverage, which every other industrialized nation recognizes as a fundamental right.
We need to hold the Trump administration accountable to the people. We need to hold Trump to his promise to protect Medicare and to ensure quality, affordable health care for all.
Sal Rosselli is president of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents 13,000 employees in California. He can be contacted at email@example.com.