August 22, 2017
The Deadly Descent of Obamacare
That flying contraption called Obamacare is locked in the downward spiral that is the nightmare of every pilot. Escape is not likely short of a miracle, and Congress doesn’t do miracles. Congress is fleeing the scene of the crime for a long and undeserved vacation, leaving with cries of “good luck.” Donald Trump is at the controls with no parachute and the passengers on the Good Ship Lollipop — riding in economy class, of course — are left to their prayers. There’s poetic injustice for all (except for Congress, which has its own health care scheme, and it’s as generous as you might expect).
The Congressional Budget Office put a figure on the damage when it reckoned last week that the Trump administration’s proposal to cut off key cost-sharing reduction payments to the program would cause mid-level insurance plans to surge by 20 percent in 2018 and another 25 percent by 2020. Even before the Senate’s futile summer efforts to pass a legislative replacement, rates were projected to climb an average of 18 percent nationwide. Either way, American family fortunes are in for a ruthless bashing.
Continuing the subsidies would cost taxpayers $7 billion a year, but terminating them will set back the Treasury $194 billion over 10 years. Barack Obama left an economic booby trap for his successor and with each passing day winning the White House might appear to Mr. Trump as less a privilege than a booby prize.
Democrats couldn’t be more pleased. They conspired with Mr. Obama to establish a financially flawed health care system, encouraged Americans to become dependent on its extravagant benefits, and stepped back to watch as it began to come apart at the seams. Now Mr. Trump and the Republicans will get the blame thanks to faithful Democratic allies in the press. Little will stand in the way of their dream of installing a British-style system in which costs are controlled by rationing health care. No one saves more money for the system than a patient deemed not worth saving. The only consolation is that everyone has to die someday.
As the downward spiral quickens, the White House announces it will continue to pay the subsidies and keep Obamacare from crashing until later. Weighing the likely outcome, Merrill Matthews, a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation, disagrees: “If you’re going to lose anyway, probably best to lose on the side of good policy — and the Constitution — and reject the [subsidy payments].”
It’s solid advice: A federal court ruled that Mr. Obama had initiated the payments unlawfully as a backdoor bailout to insurance companies for co-operating with him, rather than through requesting legal appropriation from Congress. Instead of perpetuating the payola, Mr. Trump should put Democrats on the spot and let them make the case to Americans that it’s smart to throw good money after bad.