Dave Lambeth: Try fixing, not sabotaging Affordable Care Act
September 13, 2017
Last month, Trump's Department of Health and Human Services announced plans to gut its budget for promoting enrollment and helping American consumers sign up for coverage with the Affordable Care Act.
With the collapse of the effort to repeal the ACA, the president faces a stark choice. Try to make the ACA work? Or sabotage the law? He is choosing sabotage. Contrary to this administration's talking points, the ACA is working. Millions have gained coverage, and the rate of the uninsured is at a historic low.
Over its first six months in office, the Trump administration has dismantled the ACA limb by limb:
• It has halved the enrollment period from 12 weeks to six weeks.
• It reduced the value of many of the ACA insurance plans.
• It has used ACA funds to finance a public relations drive against it.
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• It cut the budget to inform the pubic of open enrollment by 90 percent.
• It terminated contracts for health care "in-person assisters" in 18 cities.
With these slashings, the system is likely to end up with a more expensive pool of patients, forcing premiums higher, costing taxpayers more and creating more volatile markets.
We all agree the current plan is not perfect. The new healthcare exchanges have struggled in some states. Insurers have been reluctant to participate in sparsely populated, high-cost areas, eroding the market competition that leads to low premiums. There's a lot of frustration with excessively high deductibles for exchange plans.
These are fixable problems, though — if Congress wants to fix them. It's not clear that they do.
This sort of malign neglect would violate the president's constitutional duty to "take Care that the laws be faithfully executed."
Unable to kill the Affordable Care Act outright, the Trump administration has conducted a war designed to inflict fatal damage to it. Their strategy is pretty simple: Cut the budget, impose debilitating regulations, track the subsequent missteps and then attack the program as a failure.
As this president takes deliberate steps to make the American health care system worse, he proclaims, "See, Obamacare doesn't work," instead of focusing on helping people.
The failure of repeal efforts has given Trump an opportunity to display leadership. Transcending partisanship, he could put the Affordable Care Act on a sound footing while working with Congress to fix its genuine problems.
Please call your Congress people to tell them to demand that Mr. Trump fix the ACA's problems instead of making it worse. Doing so would be good for Trump, good for the country and good for the millions of people who could sleep at night without wondering how they'll pay their medical bills.
Call Senator Michael Bennet at 202-224-5852 or 970-241-6631 Senator Cory Gardner at 202-224-5941 or 970-245-9553 and Rep. Scott Tipton at 202-226-9669 or 970-241-2499.
Dave Lambeth M.D., Ph.D.