Bill Kaplan: Trump’s betrayal on health care

President Trump speaks at Snap-on in Kenosha, Wis., on April 18, 2017. Photo by David Wise, WisPolitics.com.

The Washington Post reported: “Trump boasted (last) week that the Republican Party will soon be known as ‘the party of great health care’. But a growing number of Republicans fear that it risks being tagged as the party of the 1 percent — handing Democrats a potent political message…”. Why? Trump’s budget calls for draconian cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security disability benefits and repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). And, worse.

Last Monday, Trump ordered the Justice Department to intervene with hard-right GOP governors, asking a federal appeals court to strike down the entire ACA. (Defeated Wisconsin GOP Governor Scott Walker was the circus ringmaster for the lawsuit. Wisconsin Democratic Governor Tony Evers is trying to withdraw Wisconsin from the lawsuit). Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff and architect of Trump’s budget, pushed Trump to nullify the ACA. Mulvaney also wants to raise the Social Security retirement age to 70 and make Medicare a means-tested program.

This despite Trump’s 2016 campaign promises of “no cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid” and (health) “insurance for everyone”, with “coverage of preexisting conditions”. Trump has betrayed “forgotten Americans”. Given the midterm election victories of Democrats running on health care, most Republicans fled from the press. But not Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson: “We shouldn’t avoid this”. A top GOP Senate aide rebutted Johnson: “It’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard. It is the equivalent of punching yourself in the face repeatedly” (Washington Post).

“White House aides acknowledge that there is no specific plan (alternative to ACA)… .” (Washington Post). Condemnation was scathing. The American Hospital Association said: “America’s hospitals and health systems oppose (Trump’s) misguided decision calling on the courts to strike down the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. The position is unprecedented and unsupported by the law or the facts. Millions of Americans would lose coverage they have relied on for years. … If courts were to adopt (Trump’s) position, Medicaid expansion would be reversed and protection for people with chronic and preexisting conditions would cease to exist.”

The consequences for Wisconsin would be catastrophic: 205,118 Wisconsinites covered by ACA private health insurance would lose their coverage. (Many live in rural Wisconsin). 852,000 Wisconsinites with preexisting conditions would lose access to affordable comprehensive health insurance (Kaiser Family Foundation). Thousands of young adult Wisconsinites (up to 26 years of age) would lose coverage from their parents’ health insurance. And, Wisconsin hospitals would see their uncompensated care increase 38.1 percent (Urban Institute). 12 percent of rural Wisconsin hospitals are currently at “high financial risk”, and could face “closure” (Modern Healthcare).

There is a better way. House Democrats have proposed strengthening the ACA: Increased financial aid to buy ACA private insurance and lower out-of-pocket costs for a larger number of regular folks. End Trump’s sabotage of the ACA by reversing cuts in advertising and outreach. And, disallow junk insurance, with few benefits and no protection for preexisting conditions.

Time for Trump to reverse his betrayal on health care.

-Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.

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