Acting on his obsession with destroying the Affordable Care Act and eradicating every vestige of the Obama presidency, President Donald Trump took aim at 650,000 low-income Californians – not that he cares.
Having failed to get his way in the Republican-controlled Congress, Trump last week signed an especially mean-spirited executive order that seeks to revoke federal funding for what are called cost-sharing reductions.
These subsidies are paid to insurance companies under the Affordable Care Act specifically to help low-income people make co-payments for hospitalization and visits to doctors. Trump’s plan to cut the payments starting on Oct. 20 is sure to further disrupt insurance markets in some states. Some predict rate increases across the board in states that have not prepared.
California officials anticipated the action, and took steps to ease its impact. Still, up to 1.4 million Californians earning less than $30,000 a year qualify for the subsidies. Few will be able to pay the full cost of a doctors’ visit or hospitalization.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra called Trump’s action “completely reckless,” and sued in federal court to block it.
The cost-sharing reduction issue has a tortured history. In 2014, the Republican-controlled House, including California’s 14 Republican representatives, sued to force Barack Obama’s administration to stop the cost sharing reductions.
With that case pending, Trump took office and began his quest to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In May, Becerra and other Democratic state attorneys general intervened in the D.C. court to defend the payments. Trump’s executive order declaring that he would cease making the payments was, in essence, an end-run around that litigation.
Becerra’s suit in San Francisco, joined by attorneys general from 17 states plus the District of Columbia, seeks a temporary restraining order and injunction blocking the executive order. An initial hearing on Becerra’s request is expected soon.
As a member of Congress in 2009 and 2010, Becerra helped negotiate the Affordable Care Act and represented a Los Angeles district that had the nation’s third-highest rate of people without health insurance. Californians should be glad he is taking the defense of the act personally.
California Republican members of Congress, by contrast, seem to care little about the 199,000 people in their districts who directly benefit from cost-sharing reductions totaling $193 million annually.
Some, like Jeff Denham, were silent. Others, like Tom McClintock, applauded Trump’s effort to destabilize the health insurance industry, undermine the Affordable Care Act, and ultimately harm people they are sworn to defend.
There are 14,833 people who depend on the subsidies in Denham’s district, which includes Stanislaus County and part of San Joaquin, according to data compiled by Health Access. McClintock, whose district includes all of Tuolumne and several other mountain counties, has 16,965 constituents who depend on the cost-sharing reductions.
Whether voters directly benefit from Obamacare or not, we all know people who have come to depend on it. Few of us are more than a few paychecks or one terrible illness or accident from needing a hand.
How sad that health care is a political football for elected leaders. They don’t have to worry about their actions; they all earn far more than $30,000. They and their families enjoy the finest health care coverage taxpayer money can buy.