WASHINGTON, D.C. - After Senate Republicans failed to pass legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act earlier this year, President Donald Trump said his strategy would be to simply let the health care law implode and then deal with the consequences. However, a new report from the Congressional Budget Office shows that his administration isn't really taking a hands-off approach to destroying Obamacare. In fact, Trump and his administration actually have their hands on the plunger to set off that implosion.
While the CBO report doesn't explicitly lay the blame for its predictions at the hands of the Trump administration, it's clear from the report that the CBO attributes the uncertainty in the health insurance marketplace on the actions of President Trump and his administration.
According to the CBO report, health insurance premiums in the individual marketplace are predicted to increase an average of 15 percent in 2018, due in large part to the President's use of cost-sharing subsidies as leverage during the health care debate in Congress. On multiple occasions President Trump threatened to end the payments, calling them a bailout for insurance companies.
However, insurance companies say the payments allow them to cover more people. Under Obamacare the companies are required to keep deductibles and co-pays affordable for sick and less wealthy individuals and families. Often, this results in the company taking a loss for providing coverage to these vulnerable Americans. The subsidies provided by the government help reimburse insurers for these losses, which in turn helps control health care costs for individuals who make less than $30,000 a year and families of 4 who make less than $61,000 a year. Without the subsidies health providers would have to undoubtedly raise their rates, and in fact because President Trump and his administration have refused to provide reassurance that they won't stop the payments, a number of health providers chose to raise their 2018 rates to compensate for that possible eventuality.
The CBO says larger premium increases are likely to impact the number of Americans who can afford to sign up for coverage in 2018. "Between 2017 and 2018, the number of uninsured people rises by 2 million in the agencies’ projections, mainly because premiums in the nongroup market are expected to be higher."
Subsidies aren't the only way The Trump administration is actively working to undermine the Obamacare markets. The government has also gutted the budget for Obamacare advertising and outreach programs 90 percent from $100 million to $10 million and cut the enrollment period significantly. Under President Trump it will only be open for six weeks from November 1 through December 15. The CBO says this undercuts any possibility of an increase in enrollment. "That increase in enrollment in 2018 is limited by projected premium increases due to near-term market uncertainty and by announced reductions in federal advertising, outreach, the enrollment period, and other enrollment efforts, which push enrollment down. "
The CBO report makes it clear that something needs to be done to address the issue of health care and the clock is ticking if Americans are going to avoid the pains of high premiums or the loss of coverage.