On Friday, October 13, in the hours after President Donald Trump’s announcement aimed at radical revision of Obamacare and just days before the opening of the new open enrollment period, eighteen states filed a lawsuit seeking to preserve the status quo, specifically to continue the payments the federal government has been making, the next monthly installment of which is due Wednesday, October 18.
The lawsuit was filed by the Attorneys General of California and New York (respectively, Xavier Becerra and Eric Schneiderman)and joined by the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and DC.
Trump has taken two key interrelated actions in recent days. One was an order that loosened the restraints on the plans that insurance companies can offer through the exchanges, which will allow for some “cream skimming.” The other ends the subsidies that have been paid to insurers reimbursing them for their costs of covering their lower income enrollees, making life more difficult for non-cream left unskimmed. Yet Obamacare remains the law of the land: the existence of the exchange, the individual insurance mandate, some legal protection for people with pre-existing conditions – none of these can be changed without legislation.
Left Wing View
In Slate, Jim Newell wrote that the only way the Democrats can still save Obamacare as a viable system, one that my eventually “get off the mat” onto which it has been thrown, is by playing “the blame game.” They have to force Congressional Republicans either to “own the sabotage” or to reject it by appropriating the money that Trump is refusing to pay.
Topher Spiro, a health care expert with the Center for American Progress, tweeted soon after the lawsuit was filed that “already 4 House Rs said Congress must fund ACA payments. Let’s get all vulnerable Rs on record to build pressure.”
Alex Shephard, in The New Republic, writes that Trump’s moves on health insurance “substantially increase the likelihood of government shutdown.” The Republicans will certainly be the chief recipients of public resentment of such a development, as they control both Houses of Congress as well as the White House.
In Politico, Paul Demko and Rachana Pradhan seem to look forward with the zest of ancient Romans waiting for the arrival of the gladiators to what comes next, the “epic legal battles shaping up over Trump’s scrapping of Obamacare subsidies.”
Right Wing View
Congressional efforts to reverse Trump’s defunding decision have focused on what is known as the Murray-Alexander bill, the work of Sens Patty Murray (D-Wash) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)
The Trump administration’s head of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, has said that the administration would veto a Murray-Alexander bill without major concessions.
Of course, it is possible Congress could pass Murray-Alexander whether the President likes it or not, putting it on his desk with the stark choice of “veto or sign.”
The President himself has tweeted, “Obamacare is a broken mess. Piece by piece we will now begin the process of giving America the great HealthCare it deserves.”
Saturday morning, he followed that up with another comment: “Health insurance stocks, which have gone through the roof during the Obamacare years, plunged yesterday after I ended their Dems windfall.”
His defenders say: Trump accurately discerned that the subsidies are illegal, and faithfully executed the law by ending them. That is, for example, the National Review take. The “culprits here,” writes Andrew McCarthy, “are the charlatans who gave us Obamacare.”
In a separate piece, also in NR, the editors say that “liberals can present” Trump’s moves regarding Obamacare “as a catastrophe with straight faces” but that this is “mostly a testament to their dramatic skills.”