Blair Horner: Washington Prepares To Take Away Health Insurance For Millions Of Americans

Mar 20, 2017

The Trump Administration continues to distract the nation with a daily stream of misinformation that often provides cover for the policy work of the Administration and the Congress.  The latest is the Trump Administration’s accusations (without evidence) that the Conservative Government in Britain and the Obama Administration had wiretapped the Trump campaign in the months leading up to the election.

As the uproar over the unsubstantiated claims increased on both sides of the Atlantic, the Congress and the Administration have been busy trying to piece together a plan to rob millions of Americans of their health insurance.

After years of pledging to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, the Congressional leadership and the Trump Administration are now faced with the task of actually doing so while claiming to the public that it can be done without loss of insurance to anyone.

Of course, it would be possible to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with something that would insure everyone at a lower cost; by expanding the federal Medicare program to everyone instead of only those over the age of 65 or with disabilities.

But that’s not what they are talking about.

Instead, the Congress and the Administration are trying to develop a plan that move their bumper sticker promise into public policy without taking the political hit of admitting that such a move would hurt millions of people.

Reality, however, is hard to ignore. The non-partisan, independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reviewed the plan being offered by the President and the House leadership.  Here is what they concluded:

CBO estimated that several major provisions affecting Medicaid (the federal/state health insurance for the poor) would decrease direct spending by $880 billion over the 2017-2026 period.  If the Administration’s plan was in place in the year 2026, Medicaid spending would be about 25 percent less than what CBO projects under current law. Most of the reduction in spending would be the result of lower enrollment.

By 2026, CBO estimates 14 million fewer people would be enrolled in Medicaid compared to current law. Overall, the Administration/House leadership’s plan would reduce federal deficits by $337 billion over the 2017-2026 period primarily from cuts to the Medicaid program and the elimination of subsidies for those lower and moderate income Americans covered by health insurance provided under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

As a consequence of the changes proposed by the Trump Administration and the House leadership, CBO estimated that the total uninsured in America would reach 52 million in 2026, or 24 million more than what is projected under current law with the ACA. 

That’s right; 24 million Americans who would have health insurance if the Affordable Care Act is kept in place would lose it under the Administration’s plan.

Not surprisingly, this analysis set off a firestorm on Capitol Hill with many members of Congress stating that they could not support the plan.  As the first committee votes on the legislation were due, the Trump Administration issued – without offering any evidence other than that of one Fox News commentary (who had no proof) – that the Obama Administration and the Conservative Government in Britain had wiretapped the Trump campaign.

While the blowback from that baseless assertion may end up solidifying the view that the Trump Administration’s statements can never be trusted, in terms of moving the Affordable Care Act repeal along, it worked.

The first vote was taken and the legislation – a plan to rob tens of millions of Americans of their health insurance – was approved in committee.

And while there is no way to know if the legislation will ultimately become law, one thing is clear: The deceptions of the Trump Administration may not only be the result of a careless President, but ones that distract the American public from the unpopular moves that the Congress is considering.

The nation must keep on alert, not only to what is said in Washington, but what is also being done.

Blair Horner is executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors.  They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.