As President Donald Trump continues his assault on Obamacare — halving the enrollment period, cutting low-income subsidies and slashing marketing budgets by 90 percent — a bipartisan group of governors trudges on with its efforts to work with Congress to shore up health-insurance markets and bring down rates.
Last week, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and a group of nine other Democratic and Republican governors urged Congress (pdf) to move quickly to pass legislation to stabilize health insurance markets and make it more affordable ahead of the condensed open enrollment period that kicks off Nov. 1.
Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democrat Sen. Patty Murray of Washington have negotiated a bipartisan deal that helps achieve some of the governors’ goals, so the group sent a letter to Congress urging a vote on Alexander-Murray by the House and Senate. Trump alternately indicated both support and disapproval of the bill over the course of three days last week, making its future uncertain.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday told CNN he’s waiting for Trump to make up his mind to determine whether Alexander-Murray will get a Senate vote.
“If there’s a need for some kind of interim step here to stabilize the market, we need a bill the president will actually sign. And I’m not certain yet what the president is looking for here, but I will be happy to bring a bill to the floor if I know President Trump would sign it,” the Kentucky Republican told CNN.
The legality of Trump’s efforts to do what Congress was unable to do — essentially repeal Obamacare using executive orders and funding sabotage — may not be legal. According to the Constitution, presidents must “take care that the law be faithfully executed,” and Obamacare remains the law of the land. But to some extent, the damage has already been done, and the number of uninsured Americans is climbing.
No matter what happens before Congress convenes later this year, Trump has put his imprint on the Affordable Care Act, destabilizing it in many significant ways and turning it into his own version of Trumpcare.
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet has joined fellow Democrat Tim Kaine of Virginia in proposing a plan called Medicare X to develop a public option on the Obamacare marketplaces, according to Vox. It would be rolled out first in places like rural Colorado with only one or two private insurance options.
“I don’t think the United States should be the only country to not have universal health care at a reasonable cost,” Bennet told Vox. “I also think we need to recognize there are a lot of people who get their insurance through their employer and like the insurance they have through their employer.”
Bennet and Kaine are touting Medicare X as the best way to stabilize the markets.
— Michael F. Bennet (@SenBennetCO) October 18, 2017
The Kaine-Bennet plan will have a long uphill fight in both Republican-controlled chambers.
And with less than 10 days until the open enrollment period begins, uncertainty and chaos rule the day, as insurance companies continue to jack up rates for individual and small-group plans and no replacement plan has been passed to stabilize insurance markets.
Unless something dramatic happens soon, Obamacare will be well on its way to becoming Trumpcare, with millions of Americans paying higher premiums and deductibles, or losing coverage altogether.
That includes millions of low-income children. Congress allowed federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to expire on Sept. 30, putting the onus on states to come up with short-term fixes to keep the 20-year-old program going. CHIP covers children from low-income families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.
States are currently using short-term funding fixes to cover CHIP but will soon have to start scaling back, with many children being shifted over to Medicaid. However, some states haven’t linked CHIP to Medicaid, so up to 4 million low-income children will lose coverage outright.