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Playing with Fire

Published on September 17th, 2017

Republicans blame Trump for sabotaging the Affordable Care Act recklessly that the party must now pass legislation strengthening Obamacare by the end of this month, or premiums will skyrocket.  Under Obamacare, participating insurers are required to keep deductibles and co-payments affordable for low-income people.  To make that proposition more appealing to these for-profit companies, Obamacare provides them with “cost-sharing reductions” — subsidies that defray the insurers’ losses.  Trump can cancel those subsidies at will. And he has threatened to do just that, over and over again, for months.

This was disconcerting to insurance providers and hindered the stability and profitability of the insurance markets.  Congress must pass legislation guaranteeing that the cost-sharing reductions will be paid or health care is going to become considerably more expensive next year.  The bad news is that, in order to avoid a spike in premiums, they’re going to need to pass that bill by September 27 — the deadline for insurers to commit to selling plans through Obamacare in 2018.

At this point, sabotaging Obamacare doesn’t create momentum for a legislative victory; it merely increases the likelihood that our health-care system will work conspicuously worse under a Republican president than it did under a Democratic one.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has decided to slash advertising for Obamacare open enrollment by 90 percent, and funding for “navigators” who help people sign up by 40 percent — even as Health and Human Services has spent public funds on advertisements effectively discouraging participation in the law.

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