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Friday, 18 May 2018 06:32

With Health Insurance Top of the Mind for Voters, It Is Time for Medicare for All

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medicareforallCan universal coverage emerge from Trump's health insurance chaos? (Photo: Molly Adams)

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Although Donald Trump continually bellows that he is going to resolve the health care insurance crisis, the facts belie his assertions. During his efforts to repeal Obamacare last year, he revealed either a cynical demagogic streak on the issue or an ignorance of the issue that impacts the most essential right of every person in the US: health. It probably is a combination of the two. After all, as Mother Jones reported in 2017, "Trump still doesn’t know the difference between health insurance and life insurance." Yes, that's correct, the president of the United States believes that extremely complicated and expensive health insurance works like term life insurance.

However, a recent poll indicates that Trump's ignorance and zeal to undo Obamacare may come back to bite the Republicans running for Congress in the midterms. As revealed in a May 16 Yahoo Finance column:

The number of uninsured Americans in 2017 saw its largest single-year increase since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act's coverage expansion, according to Gallup data....

According to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, the number of Americans without health insurance rose by 1.3 percentage points in 2017, representing about 3.2 million people. 

Those who experienced the largest declines in coverage included people between the ages of 18 and 25, Black and Latino people, and individuals with an annual household income of less than $36,000, according to the column.

It is not surprising, given the Republican demographics, that those most affected by anti-Obamacare campaign are the poor, people of color and the young. Remember that although Trump and the GOP were not successful at repealing Obamacare, they wounded it in many ways. This occurred through Trump executive orders and even congressional action, such as the tax restructuring bill from last year.

As a Reuters article from December of last year reported:

The sweeping tax overhaul that passed the U.S. Senate … contains the Republicans’ biggest blow yet to former President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, repealing the requirement that all Americans obtain health insurance.

The individual mandate is meant to ensure a viable health insurance market by forcing younger and healthier Americans to buy coverage to help offset the cost of sicker patients. It helps uphold the most popular provision of the law, which requires insurers charge sick and healthy people the same rates.

Removing it while keeping the rest of Obama’s Affordable Care Act intact is expected to cause insurance premiums to rise and lead to millions of people losing coverage, policy experts say.

There are other deleterious changes to Obamacare that have been made. As The New York Times reported on March 12, "The administration also stopped paying the law’s cost-sharing reduction subsidies, which reimburse insurers for low-income beneficiaries." Another example of how Trump and the GOP in congress are hobbling Obamacare is the work requirements that states are now allowed to place upon Medicaid recipients. Medicaid expansion was a key part of the original Obamacare law.

Instead of stabilizing the insurance market, the Republican war on Obamacare has created upheaval. Individual insurance rates for the approximately 10 million people who have unsubsidized health insurance are rising, as are rates on the actual Obamacare market. Trump is accomplishing the opposite of what he promised. His actions and those of his Republican Congress are disrupting the insurance market and negatively impacting medical care for millions of people in the US.

These actions against Obamacare and a failure to enact a viable health insurance system may come back to haunt the Republicans. As Truthout journalist Mike Ludwig reported in a May 11 article, "health care costs are one of the top policy issues motivating voters of all stripes this year, along with gun policy and job growth." Indeed, a recent HuffPost/YouGov poll found that health care was the top concern of voters surveyed going into the midterm elections.

Not that the anxiety of voters about health care coverage is deterring some Republicans from attempting further assaults on Obamacare. A May 16 Hill article recounts Sen. Lindsay Graham's (R-SC) commitment to further undo the landmark legislation:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Wednesday he is working on a new version of his ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill and has not given up on efforts to do away with the law despite Republicans’ failure last year.

“I haven’t given up,” Graham said. “Will there be another effort to replace ObamaCare with a state-centric plan? I hope so.”

Graham's initiative takes place against proof of the success of Obamacare in reducing the number of uninsured in the United States. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, "Under the law [Obamacare], the number of uninsured nonelderly Americans decreased from 44 million in 2013 (the year before the major coverage provisions went into effect) to less than 28 million as of the end of 2016." It was in 2017, after the Trump and GOP alterations of Obamacare, that the number of uninsured and the cost of health insurance started to rise again.

During this time of turmoil, it is worth noting that a majority of Americans now support a single-payer system for health insurance, according to a recent poll. Giving the concerns on the issue of health insurance going into the midterms, it is time to seriously move forward with Medicare for All.