THE PODIUM: The White House is bent on sabotaging the Affordable Care Act

Author: Diana DeGette - November 9, 2017 - Updated: November 9, 2017

Diana DeGette

The Trump administration is bad for your health.

This administration tried to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which would deprive millions of Americans of their coverage, and it appears they are still trying.

In the midst of the open enrollment season for health insurance under the ACA, the administration is taking steps through executive action to deprive people of insurance.

President Trump is trying to discourage healthy people from entering the insurance market by all but ending advertising to draw attention to open enrollment, reducing funding for “navigators” who in the past have helped members of the public answer questions about their coverage options, and allowing previously prohibited, cheap insurance plans that don’t cover many common treatments.  He has also shortened the national open enrollment period; though in Colorado, it extends to January 12, the deadline in most other states is December 15.

And now his White House is reportedly reviewing a plan to waive the ACA requirement that all people obtain health insurance or face a fine, which is known as the Individual Mandate.  At its most basic, this requirement ensures that healthy people get coverage as well as the sick, so that insurance companies won’t go broke.  This requirement is therefore crucial to keeping insurance markets and premiums stable. Without this mandate, many more health plans would opt out of the exchanges and the rates for the others would skyrocket.

The plan would be carried out through executive order unless the president persuades congressional Republicans to enact this “reform” in the tax package now under consideration in the House of Representatives, effectively gutting the ACA.

All of these steps serve to make the president’s misleading claims that the ACA is “imploding” a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Polls show most Americans think Democrats and Republicans should work together to mend the Affordable Care Act, not end it. That means working on bipartisan solutions to the problems the American people want us to solve.

Democrats want to work with Republicans on a number of shared goals:

  • Reducing premiums.
  • Lowering deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs.
  • Creating conditions that favor competition and choice among health plans.
  • Making plans easier for consumers to understand and compare.
  • Bringing down prescription drug prices.

And more.

Here and there on Capitol Hill there is a willingness among some members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to try to work together on policy solutions where we have shared concerns about our health system.

For example, most everyone agrees that this country needs better coverage at a lower cost.  But to do that takes a solid understanding of how insurance markets work, by pooling risk and incentivizing healthy people to take part.  At some time or another, everyone uses health care.  You can’t get something for nothing.  Insurance products simply don’t come in a la carte form.

All of these issues are highly technical.  Addressing them will require consulting regularly with experts who can guide us to policies that help create more stability in the marketplace without eliminating vital consumer protections.

The product will be much better from the standpoint of politics as well as policy.  As my Republican colleagues know full well from earlier this year, many of their constituents strongly objected to steam-rolling through bills to dismantle the ACA that were ill-considered and would have wreaked havoc on our health care system.

We didn’t say the ACA was perfect when it became law.  Nobody’s saying that now. Every modern federal program affecting public well-being, from Social Security to Medicare, has required changes over time. They’ve all been improved through the years by changes to their founding statutes.

After seven years of noisy partisan wrangling, I can confidently say there is a path forward for strengthening America’s health care system.  There are reasonable, effective solutions that can secure bipartisan support and help us fulfill the duties that we, as elected officials, have to all Americans.

Our constituents are demanding it — that’s why they’ve been so passionate about protecting the ACA.  Its approval among Americans is at higher levels now than it ever was.  We should seize this moment and do what’s best for them.

Read The Podium weekly; it’s where prominent players in Colorado politics address the big issues of the day.

Diana DeGette

Diana DeGette

Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat, represents Colorado’s First District in Congress. She is chief deputy whip and a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over health care matters.