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This Week in the War on Health Care

By April 19, 2018No Comments

While Americans paid up on Tax Day, Republicans continued their unprecedented assault on the American health care system. Here’s what happened this week in the war on health care – plus two stories you should be sure to read:


On Tax Day, as millions of Americans worry that their health care costs are expected to increase by double digits because of the Republican tax bill, wealthy insurers were celebrating huge tax breaks thanks to President Trump and Congressional Republicans. As the Washington Post reported:

“The tax overhaul certainly unlocked more profits for the industry. It not only lowered the domestic corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, a huge boon to insurers and pharmacy benefit managers, but it also enticed drug and biotech companies to bring home huge overseas cash reserves by slashing taxes on those earnings, too. Pfizer, which has been mentioned as a potential buyer of Shire, announced an extra $10.7 billion in reported income for 2017 because of the tax changes. Allergan, UnitedHealth and Anthem have also recorded a benefit from the tax overhaul, according to a recent analysis by Bloomberg. Indeed, all five major U.S. health insurers have announced the tax overhaul will increase their revenue this year.”

But, for people who work for a living, the TrumpTax means higher health care costs:

  • The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that the premiums will go up 10% each year because of the TrumpTax.
  • A recent Urban Institute Urban study found that premiums are expected to rise 18.3% due to actions taken by the Trump Administration.
  • And an analysis from by Covered California projected that premiums could rise as much as 90% due to the Trump Administration’s sabotage campaign.
  • 20 Americans will lose their coverage for each millionaire’s tax break.

Every American who sees their health care costs go up should remember that their rising health care costs were brought to them courtesy of Donald Trump and the GOP.


On Monday in Florida, President Trump vowed to continue his sabotage campaign against the Affordable Care Act, saying the GOP’s tax bill brought about “the end of Obamacare” and expressing his support for proposed association health plans, calling them “tremendous insurance.”

He left out the fact that his war on our care already threatens millions of Americans’ insurance, is raising premiums double-digits for millions more, and has seriously damaged the individual market – and that his response has been to embrace junk insurance scams like association health plans, which have a history of fraud and have been condemned by experts across the country.


In Montana, Americans for Prosperity released a new, misleading ad against Sen. Jon Tester. They forgot to mention that because their Republican allies in Congress have been waging a war on health care that will raise costs, take away coverage, and gut protections for those with pre-existing conditions, Montana families will see their premiums go up an average of $2,100 this fall and 46,000 Montanans could lose coverage altogether.


Another Administration official responsible for Americans’ rising health care costs? CMS Administrator Seema Verma. Here’s the Los Angeles Times’ Michael Hilktzik:

It’s been well documented that the Trump White House has filled federal agencies with bureaucrats whose life work is destroying the very agencies they’ve been assigned to. But one is in a better position than her fellows to threaten the health of millions of Americans—and she’s been working at that assiduously. We’re talking about Seema Verma, who as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also is effectively the administrator of the Affordable Care Act. In the Trump administration, that has made her the point person for the Trump campaign to dismantle the act, preferably behind the scenes…

Verma never has concealed her hostility to Medicaid — especially Medicaid expansion, a provision of the ACA. Her animosity is fueled at least in part by ignorance (willful or otherwise) about the program. Back in November, on the very day that voters in Maine and Virginia were demonstrating full-throated support at the polls for expanding Medicaid in their states, Verma was unspooling a string of misleading statistics and suspect assertions about the program to support a policy of rolling back enrollment. Badmouthing Medicaid is pretty much the opposite of what a Medicaid administrator should be doing. It’s worse when there’s so little truth to the attack… Last month, after her superiors at the Department of Health and Human Services nixed an Idaho plan to eviscerate the ACA’s mandate of essential health benefits, she suggested to Idaho officials how they could circumvent the ACA’s mandate without being too obvious about it. She has cleared Kentucky to impose work requirements on Medicaid applicants, a historic first that is probably illegal and almost sure to drive as many as 300,000 enrollees out of the program in the very first year…

Republicans in Congress didn’t have the votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, so they’ve taken to underhanded stunts to try to accomplish the same thing, with Trump’s help. Their actions include effectively eliminating the individual mandate, which will guarantee that the pool of ACA enrollees will be sicker next year than last year, driving up costs; and promoting cheaper, skimpier short-term health plans, which will leave their policyholders without crucial coverage or consumer protections just at the point they need these benefits for their health, while also draining healthier enrollees from full-benefit ACA plans.

These actions will almost certainly lead to a spike in premiums for 2019. “It’s just still a nasty soup right now that’s brewing,” Matt Eyles, a top executive at America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry lobbying arm, warned at a Washington conference last week. Trump and his fellow Republicans will be entirely responsible for the fallout, but they’ll have Seema Verma to thank for running interference.


And another Republican responsible for Americans’ rising health care costs? Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Here’s the Spokesman-Review’s Shawn Vestal:

“If it’s April, it must be time for Cathy McMorris Rodgers to start telling whoppers about health care. A year ago at this time, McMorris Rodgers tied herself in knots trying to justify her vote for the American Health Care Act, the failed effort to replace Obamacare. Just a few months before that vote, after all, she had co-sponsored legislation that would have prohibited something that the AHCA would allow: charging sick people more for insurance… Three months later, she voted for the AHCA, which would have allowed insurers to do just that in some cases. She was against it before she was for it…

The AHCA is dead and buried, but McMorris Rodgers is sticking to her story. Last week, in an interview on KREM, she was asked, “And so you would not vote for legislation that did not have protection for those with pre-existing conditions? She said, “Right. And I haven’t.” Which seems like the wrong answer, given that she voted for a bill that would have allowed states to charge some sick people more money for being sick…

Health care politics is complicated. Politicians can mislead by simply saying the humane-sounding thing and hoping no one pays attention to the details. McMorris Rodgers has said all along that she supports protecting people with pre-existing conditions. It’s a top priority, she says. A fundamental principle. She has said all along: She opposes charging sick people more for health insurance. She said it when sponsoring a law to outlaw the practice. And she said it when voting to allow it.