While foreign policy dominated the headlines this week, Republicans continued their unprecedented assault on the American health care system. Here’s what happened this week in the war on health care – as well as three op-eds and one poll worth checking out:

UNINSURED RATE UP THANKS TO REPUBLICANS’ WAR ON HEALTH CARE

A new survey from Gallup finds statistically significant uninsured rate spikes in 17 states over the first year of the Trump presidency, attributing the dramatic increase to Republicans’ repeal-and-sabotage campaign against the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid.

Health care advocates warned President Trump and Congressional Republicans that their repeated attacks would lead to fewer coverage and higher costs, and these numbers confirm it. Republicans’ war on health care has had a fast and dramatic negative impact, and things will get worse until we can stop these attacks on our care.

PREMIUMS RISE AS INSURANCE COMPANIES DECRY GOP ACTIONS

This week, 2019 rates were officially announced in Virginia and Maryland, and the results are not pretty. Rates in Virginia are slated to rise as much as 64%, while they could go up as much as 91% in Maryland. What’s behind these hikes?

As Cigna said in Virginia:

Factors behind the rate request include “elimination of the Individual Mandate penalties” and “anticipated changes to regulations regarding Short Term Medical and Association Health Plans.” [Fierce Healthcare, 5/10]

And as Kaiser Permanente said in Maryland:

“‘These proposed rates reflect the expected costs of providing coverage for these members, including the impact of eliminating the individual mandate penalty.” [Baltimore Sun, 5/7]

Now more than ever, bipartisan actions to stabilize the marketplace would be valuable. Unfortunately…

SEN. ALEXANDER REFUSING TO WORK WITH DEMOCRATS TO SHORE UP MARKETPLACE

A new report indicated that Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) will refuse to work with Democrats to avoid double-digit rate hikes caused by Republicans’ actions to sabotage health care.

In other words, after blowing up bipartisan talks to alleviate the damaging rate hikes GOP policies are forcing on millions of Americans, Sen. Alexander is now flailing to avoid the consequences of his actions. His ‘dog ate my homework’ finger-pointing is too little, too late.

CHILDREN’S COVERAGE BECOMES THE LATEST FOCUS OF THE GOP’S HEALTH CARE CUTS

Yesterday, President Trump sent Congress a proposal to slash $7 billion from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to patch up the record deficits being inflicted by his tax breaks for big corporations, cuts which would cause a ripple effect of harm to critical health care programs.

Before the Trump presidency the CHIP program earned broad bipartisan support. Now, Republicans in Congress use kids’ health as a bargaining chip Is there no bridge too far for the GOP in their relentless war on our health care?

REPUBLICANS NOMINATE THREE MORE ENEMIES OF HEALTH CARE

On Tuesday night, candidates who have pledged to continue the GOP’s destructive repeal-and-sabotage agenda won Senate primaries in Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia.

  • Ohio Republican Senate nominee Jim Renacci has voted to repeal or tear apart the Affordable Care Act 58 times, including last year’s House repeal bill that would have kicked 23 million Americans off of their health care, spiked premiums, undermined health care and reproductive rights for women, and imposed an age tax on older Americans;
  • Indiana Republican Senate nominee Mike Braun has called for a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, with no plan to replace it; and
  • West Virginia Republican Senate nominee Patrick Morrissey has twice sued the federal government to overturn the Affordable Care Act, most recently joining a February suit to invalidate the law.

In the Senate, these nominees would push a destructive agenda that represents a grave threat to the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid, placing millions of Americans’ coverage and access to care at risk. But despite what Renacci, Braun, and Morrissey might say, the majority of the American people are saying louder: enough is enough – it’s time for Republicans to end their war on our health care. In fact, just this week…

OPINION PAGES CALL OUT GOP SABOTAGE

The Washington Post and Minneapolis Star Tribune both published scathing editorials against aspects of the GOP’s prolonged repeal-and-sabotage campaign this week, and a New York Times column made clear the effects of this campaign.

Here’s the Washington Post:

The effects of the president’s underinformed instincts, enabled by the ideologues in his administration, are beginning to show up in some of the numbers, representing real pain that Americans are suffering for Mr. Trump’s deficient leadership… Obamacare critics regularly describe all problems as the inevitable result of a poorly designed law. But the numbers suggest that the critics’ sabotage efforts are to blame. After impressive declines during President Barack Obama’s second term, the fund found that the uninsured rate increased in both of the years Mr. Trump has been in office.

The Star Tribune:

Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has proposed extending the coverage period to roughly a year from about three months…. The savings might dazzle consumers, but ‘Buyer beware!’ ought to be shouted from the rooftops… Short-term plans are cheap because they don’t cover very much. Policymakers pushing these plans ought to be asked if they’d be comfortable relying on them for their families. The only responsible answer is ‘no.’

And the New York Times:

Insurers are already proposing major premium hikes — and they are specifically attributing those hikes to G.O.P. actions that are driving healthy Americans out of the market, leaving a sicker, more expensive pool behind. So here’s what’s going to happen: Soon, many Americans will suffer sticker shock from their insurance policies; federal subsidies will protect most of them, but by no means everyone. They’ll also hear news about declining insurance coverage. And Republicans will say, ‘See, Obamacare is failing.’ But the problem isn’t with Obamacare, it’s with the politicians who unleashed this termite infestation — who are doing all they can to take away your health coverage. And they need to be held accountable.

KAISER TRACKING POLL CONFIRMS: HEALTH CARE A MAJOR ISSUE FOR VOTERS

This morning’s Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll found that health care remains a top issue among voters, as covered by the Washington Times and HealthExec. Among its key findings:

  • 77% of those surveyed said health care was an important issue, with 30% of these voters listing health care costs as the reason why – just as premiums are rising due to GOP sabotage.
  • 19 percent of Independents cited health care a top issue, second only to the economy at 22 percent.
  • Kaiser considers one in four Americans “health care voters,” who “say a candidate’s position on health care will be the ‘most important factor’ in their decision.”
  • Cutting Medicaid and Medicare remains deeply unpopular. As the poll found: “Few partisans – regardless of party identification – say they would be ‘more likely’ to vote for a candidate who wants to reduce government spending on health programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.”
  • People are more likely to support candidates who support the Affordable Care Act, and less likely to support candidates who favor repeal.

The Kaiser survey follows numerous recent polls that find health care remains the top issue heading into midterms, including a new CBS poll released Tuesday that finds health care is the most important issue in deciding votes this November.