How One Blue State Is Defying Trump’s Obamacare Moves
Washington spent years trying to make Obamacare work. Now, it’s leading the effort to Trump-proof the law’s insurance markets.
Washington, along with progressive strongholds like California and New Jersey, have taken numerous steps to blunt the Trump administration’s recent expansion of cheaper and slimmer coverage alternatives to Obamacare. The law’s new enrollment period, which opened almost two weeks ago, could show just how much states supporting the Affordable Care Act can insulate themselves from President Donald Trump’s efforts to weaken it.
“The Affordable Care Act is working much better than everybody from Donald Trump through his administration is willing to acknowledge,” said Mike Kreidler, Washington’s insurance commissioner, during a recent interview at his office on the Capitol grounds. “You’ve got a fully functioning, vibrant market here in the state of Washington.”
While the health care law’s insurance markets are stabilizing across the country, they’re still facing nagging problems not even the most Obamacare-friendly states can solve themselves. Years of premium hikes have made the coverage unaffordable for many middle-class customers who don’t qualify for federal subsidies, and sky-high deductibles force some to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket each year before coverage kicks in.
Democrats took Obamacare repeal off the table by winning back the House last week, but the Trump administration has already left its stamp on the law’s marketplaces. Through regulatory actions, it reversed Obama-era limits on short-term plans — which typically don’t cover pre-existing conditions and some other Obamacare-mandated benefits like prescription drugs — and will allow people to renew the plans for up to three years. The administration is also encouraging more small businesses and individuals to band together in coverage outside of the law’s marketplaces.
The Trump administration says its policies will help provide cheaper insurance options, especially for those priced out of the Obamacare markets. Trump officials — and Republicans, generally — argue people should be able to buy less robust coverage if it suits their health care needs.
Obamacare supporters, however, worry that healthier customers will opt for cheaper coverage, leaving the law’s exchanges with mostly sick patients. That could prompt insurers to hike rates further or stop selling Obamacare coverage.
“That’s why it’s just ass backwards for what they’re trying to accomplish,” Kreidler said of the Trump administration.