Editorials

Trump’s latest attempt to gut Obamacare takes direct aim at 650,000 of our neighbors

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. TNS

Acting on his obsession with destroying the Affordable Care Act, President Donald Trump took direct aim at 650,000 low-income Californians, not that he seems to care.

Having failed to get his way in the Republican-controlled Congress, Trump Thursday night signed an especially mean-spirited executive order that seeks to revoke federal funding for what are called cost-sharing reductions.

These subsidies are paid to insurance companies under the Affordable Care Act specifically to help low-income people make co-payments for hospitalization and visits to doctors. Trump’s plan to cut the payments starting on Oct. 20 is sure to further disrupt the insurance market in some states.

In California, state officials anticipated the action, and took steps to ease its impact. Still, as many as 1.4 million Californians who earn less than $30,000 a year qualify for the subsidies. They are not individuals who can readily absorb the impact of having to pay the full cost of a doctors’ visit or hospitalization.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra called Trump’s action “completely reckless,” and sued in federal court on Friday to block it.

The cost-sharing reduction issue has a tortured history. In 2014, the Republican-controlled House, including California’s 14 Republican representatives, sued in federal court in Washington, D.C., to force Barack Obama’s administration to stop the cost sharing reductions.

With that case pending, Trump took office and began his quest to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In May, Becerra and other Democratic state attorneys general intervened in the D.C. court to defend the payments.

Trump’s executive order declaring that he would cease making the payments was, in essence, an end-run around that litigation in Washington.

Becerra’s suit in San Francisco, joined by attorneys general from 17 states plus the District of Columbia, seeks a temporary restraining order and injunction blocking the executive order. An initial hearing on Becerra’s request for a temporary restraining order is expected to occur soon.

As a member of Congress in 2009 and 2010, Becerra helped negotiate the Affordable Care Act and represented a Los Angeles district that had the nation’s third-highest rate of people without health insurance. Californians should be glad he is taking the defense of the act personally.

California Republican members of Congress, by contrast, seem to care little about the 199,000 people in their districts who directly benefit from cost-sharing reductions totaling $193 million annually.

On Friday, they were silent or applauded Trump’s effort to destabilize the health insurance industry, undermine the Affordable Care Act, and ultimately harm people they are sworn to defend.

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, has 16,965 constituents in his district who depend on the cost-sharing reductions, according to data compiled by the advocacy group Health Access. Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, has 15,486 such constituents. There are 14,833 people who depend on the subsidies in Rep. Jeff Denham’s Turlock-area district.

Whether voters directly benefit from Obamacare or not, we all know people who have come to depend on it for their health care. Very few of us are more than a few paychecks or a terrible illness or accident away from needing a hand.

How sad that health care is a political play toy for elected leaders. But they don’t have to worry about their actions. They earn substantially more than $30,000. Along with their families, they enjoy the finest health care coverage taxpayer money can buy.

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