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Thanks, Trump lovers, for jacking my health insurance

Where’s your “beautiful, phenomenal” TrumpCare plan?

Jeffrey Denny

Two years ago, I kvetched to a close Republican friend that Trump’s vow to repeal and replace Obamacare would not end with a “big beautiful picture” with a plan that’s a “lot less expensive,” as he bigly declared.

As an independent entrepreneur, called the backbone of America’s free-market capitalist economy, I depend on the Affordable Care Act for my healthcare coverage. So I worried that Trump’s big-talk pig-in-a-poke would kill my coverage and jack my rates.

My Republican friend dismissed my concern. “Oh, they’ll figure it out,” she said.

“They” of course didn’t. As Trump systematically kicked the legs out from under Obamacare and roiled the insurance market with uncertainty, his Republican majority in Congress failed and shelved any attempt to adopt a better plan. Best they offered was a hilarious expansion of short-term plans that was dead on arrival for being bad.

I hate to be right when the outcome is wrong. Under Trump, my CareFirst BlueCross ACA monthly premiums will rise nearly 90 percent, from $498 in 2016 to $933 next year, factoring a proposed 15 percent hike over this year. My deductible boosts my healthcare wallet well over 100 percent, all thanks to Trump.

Meanwhile, suffice to say my income and retirement account didn’t double under Trump’s vaunted economic wizardry. Fortunately, I can still handle the higher healthcare costs. But millions of less fortunate Americans have rejoined the ranks of the uninsured. They have to put off care and get sicker, or return to the hospital ER when things get really bad like before Obamacare. Either way, the costs are spread to all of us, more than under Obamacare. Call it the Trump healthcare tax.

If any Trump supporter or Republican enabler is feeling bad about making America health-poorer and unhealthier, they might salve guilt by blaming greedy insurers or the usual fallback, stupid Democrat socialist liberals.

And if you or loved ones enjoy taxpayer-subsidized Medicare, Medicaid or employer health coverage, yet sneer at Medicare For All or All Who Want it as “Democrat socialism,” congratulations: You might be a drawbridge hypocrite saying I got mine, to hell with you.

Or maybe you’re confused because healthcare policy is complicated, so you fall back on what your confirmation-biased news feeds, friend posts or favored politicians tell you to think. But you’re not sheeple like the liberals.

To my more thoughtful Republican friends, please own that with Trump and the GOP running America even as the Democrats retook the House in part on healthcare worries, the jacked-up rates for millions of Americans like me who depend on Obamacare are entirely Republican-driven.

Republicans can’t have it three ways: Enjoy dominant political power, take credit for everything good, and blame others for anything bad. Unless you love how Trump destroys every political norm, the buck still stops at the president’s desk, especially when he controls all three branches of our federal government.

For anyone who still respects objective facts, consider the findings about health insurance under Trump from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

KFF is a highly respected, nonpartisan, healthcare policy organization, with research and facts quoted widely, left and right.

Examining why 2019 Obamacare premiums were jumping 16 percent for silver plans, KFF’s analysis pointed to the Trump/GOP repeal of the ACA individual mandate — the “New Year’s Surprise” in the vaunted 2017 tax bill — plus the Trump/GOP kill of federal cost-sharing programs and expansion of short-term plans.

As KFF explained,

“Repealing the mandate penalty and expanding the availability of short-term plans and association health plans effectively siphons healthy people from the ACA marketplaces, driving up premiums as insurers’ risk pools include a larger share of sick people relative to healthier ones.

“The stripping of federal payments that insurers used under the ACA to lower the cost-sharing burden of some customers caused insurers to raise premiums to recover costs that they subsequently had to bear themselves …”

And wait for Trump’s death blow — advanced by a GOP-dominated Texas lower court — to find the entire ACA unconstitutional.

It’s already disrupting the insurance markets and raising premiums for everyone. How’s that? Without the ACA’s linchpin individual mandate, Trump lawyers argue, the whole ACA falls apart.

Don’t forget how Republicans sneaked the individual mandate-killing amendment into the 2017 tax bill and rushed the package to partisan approval between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, before many Congress folks, in either party, had a chance to read it and the public was distracted by enjoying the holidays. The GOP plan was more deliciously nefarious than any HBO “Succession” plot line because it was real.

And we’ll be left with … what? Who knows? Likely back pre-Obamacare to less coverage and more worry at higher costs, especially if you have preexisting conditions such as being alive.

(Pre-Obamacare, I was denied coverage in spite of being in great health as I exercise daily, eat well, get annual physical, skin, teeth and eye checkups, eschew tobacco, drink responsibly, and just had a wonderful ten-year reunion with my gastroenterologist for the always delightful colonoscopy. The problem? I take a cheap generic statin for marginal hereditary cholesterol.)

Obamacare’s far from perfect.

It needs mending but not ending without a better plan.

Start with stopping the Trump destruction that raises costs and reduces coverage. Then close the hole where struggling households don’t qualify for subsidies but can’t afford the ACA premiums. Also consider Mayor Pete’s “Medicare for all who want it” that could leverage capitalism to expand choice and create competition that hones efficiency and lowers costs.

For now, to my Republican friend who said, “Oh, they’ll figure it out,” I say, thanks for caring. But if you really care about me and millions of other Americans, you’ll get wise about Trump and not be a supplicant as he hurts people you love. And not put ideology over lives.

Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer.

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