The Congressman from Flint, Mich., urges citizens to be heard; warns of “human consequences” if Congress doesn’t stop Trump’s sabotage.
It’s not just speculation: Donald Trump has bragged that he’s trying to kill the Affordable Care Act (ACA). And it’s death by a million cuts.
He’s slashed funding to educate consumers about the open enrollment period for 2018 — which he cut to half the number of days of any other enrollment period — leaving Americans confused about how and when to sign up for coverage. Last week, he issued two executive orders, one that would allow insurers to sell policies that don’t offer the same consumer protections and benefits as ACA-compliant policies, so they can cover next to nothing, especially if the policyholder gets sick or injured. The second E.O. immediately stopped payments due to insurers to help them make out-of-pocket costs more affordable for lower-income Americans, which experts predict will raise costs for consumers along with the country’s deficit. (It’s important to note that the subsidies that help lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs for eligible consumers remain in place.)
On October 17, Senators Lamar Alexander (R) and Patty Murray (D) announced that they’d reached a bipartisan deal that would restore the payments to insurers, help protect consumers from unscrupulous insurance practices and higher costs, restore consumer education funding and stabilize the insurance marketplace that has been thrown into chaos by the Trump Administration.
Surprising no one with his inconsistency, Trump first voiced support for the bipartisan plan then quickly denounced it.
It’s clear that Trump wants only one thing, in healthcare and every other action he’s taken as President: to undo the legacy of Barack Obama and score a personal victory.
“He wants to put points on the board,” said Congressman Dan Kildee when I spoke with him just after the Alexander-Murray deal was announced. “He wants to be able to say he did something — he doesn’t even know what it is. He doesn’t understand the policy questions. He doesn’t read. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
Rep. Kildee admits that a statement like that is predictable coming from a Democrat, which he is. But he’s not alone in the halls of Congress, he said.
Republicans are saying it, too, and a few of them are saying it publicly. But many of them are saying it behind closed doors: Donald Trump does not know what he’s talking about.
Rep. Kildee finds it frustrating that some Republicans are taking advantage of that to further their own interests, especially when people’s access to healthcare is at stake. In fact, that’s the biggest source of frustration Kildee feels about both Trump’s ACA sabotage and the Republicans who support it, he told me.
I understand the negotiation process very well. But what ought to be out of bounds is using access to healthcare for people who really need it as a tool in that negotiation. It’s not like we’re negotiating against Donald Trump or negotiating with him. It’s putting people who need healthcare in a position where they don’t have it in order to achieve his political and policy goals. That’s immoral.
Somebody who needs insulin won’t get it in order for Donald Trump to claim a victory. That’s the most cynical use of public authority I’ve seen in the four decades I’ve been involved in the public sphere.
Rep. Kildee has always urged a bipartisan solution to improving the ACA, which he admits isn’t perfect. But he has concerns about whether the current Congress has the collective will to pass any legislation that would counter efforts to sabotage the ACA. I asked him if he thought Congress could pass legislation to stabilize the marketplace before open enrollment begins on November 1.
“We could do it if Congress really wanted to,” he told me. “But I worry about some Republicans who are willing to see the market blow up, who are willing to allow it to happen because that’s what they want to have happen.”
He added that many Americans don’t understand how the ACA has made healthcare more affordable, nor should they have to. But that means they won’t recognize that some elected officials will be taking away their current benefits, he said.
Some Republicans are willing to allow people to lose something without understanding why they’re losing it. It might affect the health of people and families, and the trajectory of their lives. There will be human consequences, and anyone who sits on their hands and lets this sabotage happen will have to take responsibility.
Rep. Kildee recognizes that many people are confused and scared about what will happen to their health insurance costs and coverage if Congress doesn’t stop the sabotage. Although Trump has issued executive orders, Congress does have the power to override him.
Rep. Kildee urges everyone to make their voices heard once again, by contacting their Congressional representatives and senators.
“The pressure needs to be turned up — it’s made a difference every time,” he said. “The fact that Republicans were stopped in their effort to repeal the ACA was directly attributable to citizens being heard. Their voices stopped bad bills from becoming law.”
In the meantime, Rep. Kildee hopes Americans see Trump’s ACA sabotage for what it is.
This is literally about whether or not the government will sabotage the existing law of the land in a way that will take insurance away from people who would have had it under the ACA. And it’s not just theoretical — people who are sick, or need medications to stay healthy or alive, will no longer have what they think they have. That takes this from an argument over policy to a real moral question. That’s something that needs to be more part of the public conversation.
IMPORTANT: Open enrollment for 2018 runs from November 1 to December 15, 2017 at Healthcare.gov, no matter what happens between now and then. Don’t miss your chance to get covered! Watch this space for tips on enrollment, coming soon.
[Image courtesy of Congressman Kildee’s office.]