Congress should keep trying to improve, not sabotage, Obamacare, which made health care available and somewhat affordable for millions.
The Affordable Care Act has been difficult to kill.
But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been weakened by the Trump administration’s repeated efforts to sabotage the program that made health care available and somewhat affordable for millions of Americans.
This month, the Justice Department announced it would stop defending the ACA’s pre-existing conditions protections in court. Insurance companies may start refusing to insure people who have already been diagnosed with cancer or diabetes, for example, and not worry about facing government legal action.
The Trump administration also wants to allow insurance companies to sell cheaper plans with less coverage than now required under Obamacare.
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Unfortunately, each attack pushes the ACA further onto shaky ground — and for no good reason.
Earlier this month, the Washington insurance commissioner announced health insurance companies have proposed average rate increases of 19 percent for individual plans in 2019. The Congressional Budget Office has predicted premiums will go up an average of 15 percent nationwide next year.
As U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, said in a recent statement on the proposed rate hikes, “These premium increases were avoidable.”
If the Trump administration didn’t push to end the individual mandate, requiring every American to have health insurance, the individual insurance market would be more stable and insurance companies wouldn’t be raising their rates so precipitously because of worries about the future.
Congress should focus on fixing the ACA, not killing it. Lawmakers could shore up the individual insurance market by voting to continue cost-sharing subsidies. Lawmakers should block the proposal to offer low-cost, low-benefit plans. And they should restore money for promoting the health-insurance exchanges and the benefits of having insurance.
The Washington Legislature should enact Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler’s proposal to stabilize the individual insurance market through a state reinsurance program. The program would cost an estimated $200 million, with a quarter of that from the federal government.
The Washington health insurance exchange is working for now. Washington Healthplanfinder enrolled a record number of people in insurance plans for 2018 — 209,802 paid for insurance coverage through the exchange.
That’s crucial insurance coverage that is working for people — and it should be preserved and expanded.