Donald Trump can’t help himself. His efforts to destroy the Affordable Care Act in Congress failed and — desperate to keep a misguided campaign promise — he’s sabotaging health care for millions of Americans any way he can.
The executive order he signed today (@dylanlscott breaks it down) directs federal agencies to make it easier for Americans to sign up for association health plans and broadens access to “short-term insurance” that are exempt from critical protections included in the ACA. These protections help guarantee insurance plans actually provide real coverage when people get sick. The executive order also creates giant loopholes for people to buy insurance outside of the ACA’s markets, raising costs on the older Americans who need more extensive coverage and sending the exchanges into a death spiral.
Today’s announcement follows another assault on health care, specifically one that put nine million children and pregnant women in harms way.
This month, Congress let lapse one of the most significant bipartisan achievements of the last century: the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
CHIP, as the program is known, provides low-income kids and their families with access to health care if they don’t qualify for Medicaid. The program was initially created by Senator Ted Kennedy and Utah’s Orrin Hatch (remember that it’s important), and it has successfully been extended by Republicans and Democrats for two decades. CHIP is directly responsible for reducing the uninsured rate for young Americas, allowing millions to lead healthier, more productive lives.
The program’s expiration wasn’t an oversight. It was an intentional, cynical act to force action on the GOP’s relentless efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In other words, Republicans in Congress are using our kids as bargaining chips to make good on their campaign promises.
This is never a good idea.
Congress’ failure to act has already had a direct impact on states around the country. And it’s only going to get worse if the fight drags on. Just look at Utah.
Orrin Hatch’s home state is one of 11 that the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates will run out of money for CHIP in a few months. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, 20,000 children in Utah benefit from the program, but state law requires that the program closes if funding for the program is lost. And just a few weeks ago it was reported that the state was the first in the country to ask the federal government to freeze CHIP enrollment. If they freeze the program, a child who needs to enroll will be turned away.
Utahns, like most Americans, understand that eliminating health care for 9 million kids is not who we are as a country. So they are doing something about it.
Last week, I talked about a grassroots effort underway in Utah to put a ballot initiative before voters next November that would bring more local control to health care. Not the kind of “control” that Ted Cruz imagines that no one but ideologues want because it allows insurers to sell functionally useless insurance packages, but control to voters who want to expand Medicaid where their elected officials have failed. The effort, known as Utah Decides Healthcare, would strengthen and expand CHIP and Medicaid coverage for tens of thousands of Utahns and keep the current eligibility standards for both programs intact. Importantly, the effort would also eliminate caps on Medicaid and CHIP enrollment so the people who need care actually get it while maintaining payment rates for doctors and other providers.
If early enthusiasm is any indication, over the next year, Utahns will get behind this effort and vote to pass the initiative, sending a message to Washington that playing games with citizens’ lives won’t be tolerated.
Simply put, this is what democracy looks like in 2017. While Washington politicians take a wrecking ball to common sense and decency, regular Americans are working around the chaos to maintain and even expand the resources they need to thrive in our society. It’s going to be hard work, but it gives me hope in America.