In the upside-down world of Washington politics, President Donald Trump appears to be fixing Obamacare, while Democrats are running around the country dismissing it as a horrible failure.
The latest evidence of the former is that Obamacare premiums are set to drop 4% next year, after declining 1.5% last year, according to a report released by the Health and Human Services Department this week. This comes after five straight years of huge increases, during which Obamacare premiums more than doubled.
The news is so remarkable that even the Washington Post had to admit that “Obamacare is getting more affordable under the Trump administration.” Oh, and the Obamacare markets are becoming more competitive, too, with the number of plans climbing by 13%, giving nearly 70% of the country access to at least three plans.
The Post even acknowledges that these improvements come “despite dire predictions by Democrats that the Trump administration would destroy the insurance marketplaces.”
“Dire predictions” is right.
When Trump signed the tax cut law into effect, he zeroed out the much-hated individual mandate tax. Critics said it would destabilize Obamacare markets because the young and healthy, freed from the tax penalty, would drop coverage, leaving the Obamacare insurance pool sicker and more expensive.
When the administration announced that it would no longer illegally pay “cost sharing” subsidies to insurers – with money that Congress never appropriated – that was supposed to be another devastating blow.
Then the Trump administration released new rules allowing millions to buy decent coverage that didn’t have to comply with Obamacare’s myriad benefit mandates and rate regulations. These short-term and association health plans were, we were assured, going to cause another mass exodus of the young and healthy who could instead buy these cheaper “junk” insurance plans.
And when Trump announced that he would allow exemptions to states so they could better manage their own individual insurance markets, well, you get the picture.
“Sabotage!” Trump’s critics repeatedly screamed.
None of it happened. As we pointed out in this space, states that embraced Trump’s short-term insurance rules saw premiums decline more than those that didn’t. A Heritage Foundation analysis found that states granted waivers by the Trump administration accounted for the entire decline in premiums last year.
Next year, premiums in Colorado will drop 20% thanks to the waiver it just received, instead of climbing 8%.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar had some fun with this, saying “The president who was supposedly trying to sabotage this law has been better at running it than the guy who wrote it.”
Try to find one Democrat celebrating this good Obamacare news.
Instead, except for Joe Biden, every Democrat running for president acts as though Obamacare never existed. They are all busy talking about the “crisis” of affordability, the high uninsured rate, the spiraling costs.
“Health care in America is too expensive, too complicated, and too frustrating,” is how South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg puts it, saying “we’re in this moment of crisis because of a failure of leadership.”
Moment of crisis? Failure of leadership? Say what?
That’s exactly what President Barack Obama was saying a decade ago when he was selling Obamacare.
And when he signed the “Affordable Care Act” into law in March 2010, he described it as a “testament to the historic leadership and uncommon courage of the men and women of the United States Congress.”
He said it would “set in motion reforms that generations of Americans have fought for and marched for and hungered for,” and promised that “uninsured people and small businesses will finally be able to purchase affordable, quality insurance.” Obama also claimed the law offered the “biggest middle-class tax cut for health care in history.”
To be sure, Obamacare failed to live up to Obama’s promises. Not because there wasn’t enough government intrusion into the market. Exactly the opposite. As Trump is showing, allowing more competition, even around the edges of Obamacare, has improved things not only for those who can escape Obamacare’s clutches but for those still in the program. Democrats can’t admit this because doing so would undercut their push for a complete government takeover of the health care system.
If Trump were to win a second term, he’d have another chance to ditch Obamacare entirely and pursue reforms that would inject still more competition and more transparency into the health care market.
Democrats will scream sabotage, but Americans will be getting better and more affordable health care.
— Written by John Merline
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