Saturday, July 29, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He escalated his threat to "implode" Obamacare himself, if he can't force Congress to do it.

Trump, who on Thursday moved from begging John McCain to vote for the so-called "skinny repeal" bill to declaring that his plan all along had been to "let Obamacare implode," today tweeted that he would end "BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies" unless Congress somehow revived an ACA repeal plan for him.

There are no "bailouts" for insurance companies in the Affordable Care Act. There are, however, cost-sharing subsidies paid by the federal government to participating insurers to underwrite low-income or high-risk enrollees. Trump is threatening to withhold these legally required payments. Without them, insurance companies will be forced to abandon the individual insurance market or substantially raise premiums for all those covered. But insurance companies (by definition) must price in projected costs, and so the uncertainty and chaos caused by Trump's continued threats have already raised premiums and decreased competition.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that if Trump carried out his threat, premiums would rise about 19%, though the amount would be higher in states that did not participate in Medicare expansion. (On the whole, this would mean that states that voted for Trump would be disproportionately hurt.) Failing to make the payments would also increase the federal government's costs overall.

Why is this a bad thing?

  • It's bad if a president deliberately sabotages a law he is sworn to faithfully execute for political points.
  • Presidents should not hold Americans' health and finances hostage.
  • Voters who heard candidate Trump say that he would lower their premiums and save taxpayer dollars may have thought he meant to do that, rather than exactly the opposite.