Monday, June 11, 2018

Trump’s War On Pre-Existing Condition Protections

As noted in the prior post concerning suicide, Trump and the GOP, but Trump in particular, is waging a war to kill the pre-existing condition provisions of the Affordable Health Care Act.  If successful, this will mean many Americans will lose coverage completely or face skyrocketing premiums.  Oh, and did I mention that almost anything can be deemed a pre-existing condition by insurance carriers who only want to accept premium payments but never have to pay out to their insureds?  With fewer and fewer Americans receiving health insurance through their jobs, this is a big deal and will cause significant harm to many already beleaguered individuals and families - especially among the GOP base.  Belatedly, some in the GOP are waking up to the danger of their handiwork in the lead up to November 218.  A piece in Talking Points Memo looks at the issue.  Here are excerpts:
Republicans were already worried that the nation’s health care woes could sink them in 2018. Now they feel like the Trump administration just tossed them an anvil.
The Department of Justice’s announcement Thursday night that it will take aim at Obamacare’s most popular provisions — a ban on insurance companies discriminating against people based on pre-existing conditions, and limits on how much insurers can hike premiums for older Americans — will be ammunition Democrats can use this November.
The long-shot lawsuit from 20 conservative states, now endorsed by the DOJ, argues that because Republicans repealed the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate penalty as part of their tax overhaul, the mandate itself can no longer be considered a tax — the basis on which the Supreme Court upheld it in 2012. And, the DOJ added, since the ACA’s rules on pre-existing conditions are “closely intertwined” with the mandate, they too must be struck down.
Republicans had begun growing hopeful that good economic news and some improving poll numbers might save them in the midterms. But they now fear that Trump has handed voters proof positive that his party doesn’t care about those with preexisting conditions.
“This is definitely the most popular aspect of the Obamacare legislation, and it clearly creates an opening for Democrats going into the final months of the election year,” GOP strategist Ken Spain, a former communications director at the National Republican Congressional Committee, told TPM.
Poll after poll has found that protecting people with pre-existing conditions is the most emotionally potent health care argument for voters. A survey conducted by the Democratic firm Hart Research Associates for Protect Our Care this past January and shared with TPM on Friday found that the issue was one of the most effective in the healthcare debate: 63 percent of voters had “very major concerns” and another 20 percent had “somewhat major concerns” with the GOP’s efforts to repeal pre-existing condition protections. Among independents, that number rose to 73 percent with “very major concerns.”
Now, thanks to the Trump administration, the issue is poised to come back into the headlines at the worst possible time for Republicans. Most insurers inform their customers about their new insurance rates in October, just weeks before voters go to the polls. Insurance rates were already set to rise next year, in large part because of Republicans’ repeal of the individual mandate, and insurers say Trump’s latest move could push premiums higher still.
“Removing those provisions will result in renewed uncertainty in the individual market, create a patchwork of requirements in the states, cause rates to go even higher for older Americans and sicker patients, and make it challenging to introduce products and rates for 2019,”America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), health insurers’ major lobbying group, warned in a Friday statement.
Now, a year later, after receiving significant political blowback for these repeal attempts, GOP lawmakers are once again in the hot seat as the Trump administration tries to use the courts to get rid of the ACA protections they were unable to abolish through Congress.
“If I were a House Republican I would have woken up to my morning newspaper and thrown it against the wall. He just made clear the thing they’ve done their best to hide from,” said Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson.
As Republicans squirm, Democrats are pouncing on the administration’s attempt to have the ACA’s most popular protections ruled unconstitutional. By Friday morning, candidates in competitive House and Senate races were blasting out statements on the legal filing and attacking their GOP opponents for siding with President Trump on health care policy.
With their eyes on retaking at least one, if not both chambers of Congress this fall, national Democratic groups are confident that the issue will be a major political liability for the GOP.  
“No issue is more personal than health care, and this is a perfect storm of two of the most personal aspects of health care coming together: skyrocketing premiums and the loss of protections for people with pre-existing conditions,” Tyler Law, the national press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), told TPM.
“Whoever tends to be disruptive on healthcare tends to get punished,” former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), a former NRCC chairman, told TPM. “When Republicans come in and try to undo Obamacare, they’re being disruptive.”

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