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Insurers, Trump collude to kill Obamacare



Republicans, especially Donald Trump, make much of the fact that insurers are pulling out of some markets, even as premiums in others are skyrocketing.

“Remember, ObamaCare is dead,” Trump tweets, calling the Affordable Care Act “a failed, expensive and dangerous legacy” for “Dems.” He bases these allegations on stories that insurers are pulling out of (mostly rural) exchanges—Humana, for example, in February announced it’s abandoning all eleven states where it had exchanges, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without insurance in states like Tennessee. Trump immediately jumped on the announcement. “Obamacare continues to fail,” he tweeted. “Humana to pull out in 2018. Will repeal, replace and save healthcare for ALL Americans.”

Well, we know that his promise to “repeal and replace” hasn’t come true, yet; and the only way it can appeal to arch-conservatives like Rand Paul would be to take healthcare away from 30 million Americans.

Insurers cite their increased cost of doing business as the reasons why they’re backing off from Obamacare. Nobody disputes that the cost of pharmaceuticals, hospitalization, durable medical devices and other aspects of healthcare is skyrocketing, and insurance companies, including not-for-profit ones, can’t stay in business if they lose money.

The obvious fix-it would be for Congress to limit these runaway price increases, but that’s not going to happen with Republicans wedded to Koch Brothers, Cato Institute-style “free market” capitalism, in which any government regulation is considered socialist and collectivist. The result is unfettered for-profit medicine, designed to wring every last dollar possible out of consumers’ pockets and into the corporate coffers (and offshore accounts) of Big Pharma, Big Hospitals, and Big Medical Devices.

But the poor, poor pitiful me complaints of the insurers are proven to be lies by simply looking at their stock performance. For example, the weekend Wall Street Journal, reporting on insurers terminating their coverage for “hundreds of thousands of consumers across the country,” mentioned three in particular: Aetna, Humana and Anthem. So how have their stock prices done over the last five years (2012-2017)?

Aetna: from $37.63 to $152.10

Humana: from $76.48 to $240.62

Anthem: from $59.91 to $190.17

Not exactly evidence of financial strain! In other words, an average price rise of nearly 390 percent over the time period Obamacare has been in effect. The insurers’ claim, endlessly recycled by Republicans, that Obamacare is hurting their bottom lines is a lie.

If these insurers are making so much money under Obamacare, then why on earth do they hate it and want to get out? Simple: because they stand to make even more, if the power is once again placed into their hands, and they can pick and choose their customers instead of having to insure the elderly, the sick, those with pre-existing conditions. And this is where the Trump administration is complicit: By creating conditions of massive insecurity, it gives the insurers an excuse to pull out of markets and raise premiums.

In fact, two-thirds of rate increases expected in 2018 are attributable to the uncertainty surrounding continued funding of cost sharing reduction payments and the question of how the relaxation of the individual mandate will impact enrollment and risk pools,” according to this analysis, cited in a June 29 report by the Center for American Progress that details how “bipartisan legislation” to repair—not repeal or replace—the Affordable Care Act “would be simple and easy to put together.” That is, repairing the A.C.A. is eminently doable if Republicans will cease their obsession with “repeal and replace.” But the Top Republican, the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, steadfastly refuses to sanction “repair.” He promised the tea party he’d kill Obamacare, and even though the promise is insane, he and his fellow Republicans feel obligated to follow up on it.

So, by creating this climate of uncertainty, Trump is actively working with the insurers to force premiums up, taking healthcare insurance away from Americans, and giving Republicans continued excuses to repeal Obamacare. As Huffington Post reported in May, “President Donald Trump has had his finger on the detonator of the bomb to blow up Obamacare for months. Now he may be about to press it.” This is collusion, pure and simple—but, fortunately, the American people, beginning to wake up from their Trump-induced coma, aren’t buying it.



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