A Staggering Blow to U.S. Health Care
Just hours after announcing some new ways to destabilize the health-insurance markets created by the Affordable Care Act, on Thursday President Donald Trump delivered a direct blow to a crucial aspect of the law itself: No longer will the federal government reimburse insurance companies for reducing out-of-pocket costs for poorer customers, as the law requires them to do.
This long-feared step compounds all the damage the president has so far inflicted, by pushing insurers to hike premiums or leave the individual insurance market altogether. Trump may not recognize the harm this does to Americans' health and peace of mind. But Congress should. Democrats and Republicans must come together to officially appropriate the payments that the president has recklessly ordered to be withheld.
A bipartisan effort to shore up the individual insurance market was under way in the Senate just a month ago, before a last-ditch attempt to repeal Obamacare stopped it in its tracks. Its leaders -- Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democrat Patty Murray of Washington -- need to pick up where they left off.
In return for Republicans' agreeing to fund the so-called cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers, Democrats could allow states greater leeway to determine the minimum requirements for insurance policies sold on their exchanges. But that discretion can't be unlimited: States should not be allowed to simply waive Obamacare's "essential health benefits."
First, however, the bipartisan conversation must resume.
On Friday morning, Trump tweeted that Obamacare is "imploding." In fact, he has used every tool at his disposal to make it collapse. His decision to end cost-sharing payments throws the individual health-insurance market into chaos just as the fall enrollment season is about to begin. Chaos, indeed, seems to have been Trump's intent, or he would not have ended the payments so abruptly. Now it's Congress's responsibility to shore up the law and stabilize the health-care system.
--Editors: Mary Duenwald, Michael Newman.
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