President Donald Trump took two significant steps this week in his effort to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act. Taken together, the decisions turn his promise of “much less expensive and much better” health insurance for everyone into a sad joke.
Tragically, the impact will fall on real people, with real families and real illnesses. This doesn’t seem to bother the president or his supporters at all.
On Thursday, the president signed an executive order designed to roll back several Obamacare provisions. Among them: the ACA’s requirement that health insurance policies meet minimum standards for coverage and cost.
Instead, the Trump order encourages purchase of something called “low-cost, short-term, limited duration insurance.” Anyone who’s ever carried an insurance card understands that phrase: It’s cheap, limited coverage, with high deductibles and co-pays.
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Such policies can be attractive for younger, healthier Americans because premiums are lower. They’ll be shocked when they go to the doctor and find their junk policies are virtually worthless.
Additionally, those lower premiums mean less money to cover older Americans, who get sick more often. Their premiums will skyrocket, and many will go without.
The result? Young Americans with policies that don’t cover anything, and older Americans with no policies at all.
It gets worse. On Friday, the White House confirmed the government will stop making payments to private insurance companies, leaving those firms unable to subsidize premiums for low-income customers.
The decision endangers private insurers, reduces coverage and will cause premiums to go up. Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the decision “a spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage.”
For some Republicans, of course, sabotaging health care for millions of Americans is a long-term goal. Democrats, though, share the blame for this sad state of affairs.
Few Democrats complained when President Barack Obama signed dozens of executive orders that arguably usurped legislative prerogatives. Those Democrats can hardly be surprised now when Trump uses the same instrument to gut the Affordable Cart Act.
The street runs both ways. Republicans who howled when Obama issued orders now clap submissively when Trump does it. In American politics, hypocrisy is the original preexisting condition.
Perhaps, though, we can call agree on this: The Trump executive orders and unilateral decisions, coupled with Obama’s use of similar powers, reflect the dangerous failure of the legislative branch of government.
That must be fixed. The executive and judicial branches have rushed to fill the vacuum left by legislative dysfunction. That has led to government by fiat, not choice, and a continued erosion of faith in republican government.
Trump has signed dozens of executive orders since taking office: on immigration, North Korea, Iran, the environment, voting, trade, labor-management relations and more. He shows little shame. In 2012, he called Obama’s orders “major power grabs,” yet he’s issued orders twice as fast as his predecessor.
America’s health care system is sicker now than it was last week, because of Trump’s decisions. But representative democracy is on the table, too, and its pulse is increasingly hard to find.