Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The Trump Administration Just Confirmed That It Is Sabotaging Obamacare

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Eric Levitz reports in New York magazine:

The Trump administration has spent much of its first year in office trying to sabotage America’s health-care system. In interviews with major publications, Donald Trump repeatedly threatened to destabilize the Affordable Care Act marketplaces — by abruptly halting subsidies to insurers — as a means of eroding popular support for the law. Meanwhile, his Health Department spread doubt about whether it would enforce the tax penalty for refusing to sign up for insurance; cut funding for the law’s outreach groups; slashed Obamacare’s advertising budget by 90 percent; spent a portion of the remaining ad budget on propaganda calling for the law’s repeal; cut the open-enrollment period by 45 days; and announced that it would be taking Healthcare.gov (where people can enroll in Obamacare online) offline for nearly every Sunday during that time period, for “maintenance” purposes.

These acts of sabotage were never subtle. But until this week, Health and Human Services employees at least tried to maintain a veneer of (implausible) deniability. Sure, Tom Price’s department would evince contempt for the ACA — and all Americans who rely on it for basic medical needs — with virtually everything it did. But the agency’s civil servants wouldn’t actually say, explicitly, “My colleagues and I are working to undermine a program that we are legally bound to administer to the best of our abilities.”

That changed Wednesday night. Earlier in the day, BuzzFeed News revealed that the Trump administration had instructed the Health Department’s ten regional directors not to participate in state-based events promoting ACA enrollment, as they had for each of the past three years. After multiple outlets asked the agency for a comment on the move, HHS press secretary Caitlin Oakley offered the following:

Marketplace enrollment events are organized and implemented by outside groups with their own agendas, not HHS. These events may continue regardless of HHS participation.

Obamacare has never lived up to enrollment expectations despite the previous administration’s best efforts. The American people know a bad deal when they see one and many won’t be convinced to sign up for ‘Washington-knows-best’ health coverage that they can’t afford. For the upcoming enrollment period, Americans are being hit with another round of double-digit premium hikes and nearly half of our nation’s counties are facing Obamacare monopolies. As Obamacare continues to collapse, HHS is carefully evaluating how we can best serve the American people who continue to be harmed by Obamacare’s failures. [Emphasis mine.]

So: Asked to respond to the allegation that it is deliberately undermining ACA-enrollment efforts — in defiance of its legal responsibilities — the Trump administration released a written statement explicitly discouraging Americans from enrolling in the program.

This is an expression of proud disdain for the president’s constituents, the most basic norms of good governance, and factual reality, all in one. Oakley is correct that Americans looking for coverage on the individual market will likely see double-digit premium hikes next year. But she neglects to mention that insurers — and the Congressional Budget Office — have said, repeatedly, that the primary cause of said hikes is the uncertainty generated by acts of sabotage like the one she is ostensibly defending.

If the Trump administration was worried about Obamacare’s rising premiums, it would be increasing investments in enrollment promotion, not slashing them. Sick people will tend to seek out health insurance, whether or not they’re exposed to advertising and events encouraging them to do so. But many healthy people will not. And the fewer healthy people who participate in the exchanges, the more expensive it will be for insurers to provide coverage for them — and, thus, the higher they will raise their premiums.

The administration’s handling of open enrollment is nearly as strategically incoherent as it is morally odious. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 September 2017 at 12:12 pm

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