After failure to repeal and replace Obamacare comes retribution, but not against White House staff or U.S. senators. Instead, President Donald Trump is punishing millions of American families by jacking up premiums and letting skimpy health plans flood the marketplace.
The most recent parallel for this kind of vindictive political attack is the infamous Bridgegate scandal, when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s top aides caused horrific traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge as payback for a local mayor’s refusal to endorse his re-election.
This time, it’s millions of families being thrown under the bridge. Because of Obamacare, they have been able to afford quality health care that saves and improves lives. But now, they will have to choose between health care and food and forgo coverage for chemotherapy, dialysis or birth control.
The Trump administration gave a green light to association health plans to sell coverage with lower standards across state lines. The concern is that younger and healthier people will be lured to the cheaper and skimpier plans, leaving people who are sicker or older, driving up their premiums.
Also, the administration abandoned federal payments to insurance plans that help support low-income families and keep premiums from spiraling out of control. Now, families may be forced to buy the low-quality plans, placing even more of a financial burden on middle-income people who would need to make up the difference in quality plans.
Just as bad, the administration is doing everything possible to make the Obamacare open enrollment as unfriendly as possible. It is shutting down the enrollment website every Sunday for 12 hours, cutting outreach and finding other ways to make it harder to get health coverage to those who need it most.
The good news is that in California, the federal government won’t have the last word.
First, the tax credits that help individuals offset high premium costs on quality insurance plans remain intact, as does Medi-Cal for the most vulnerable Californians. California also prepared for the premium hikes by placing a modest surcharge on pricier plans; we are using those funds to help lower-income families afford basic but solid coverage.
The trouble with trying to turn our nation’s health care system to rubble is that it’s not a system that feels the pain, it’s millions of American men, women and children.
Daniel Zingale is senior vice president of the California Endowment, a statewide health foundation. He can be contacted at Dzingale@calendow.org.