By MARSHA MERCER
President Donald Trump has devoted much of his 3 ½ years in office to painting over the name of Barack Obama.
Trump has sought to wipe out Obama’s efforts to de-nuke Iran, fight climate change, protect the environment, help the young Dreamers, and regulate Wall Street, among other things.
But nowhere is Trump’s obsession with obliterating his predecessor’s legacy more mystifying and confounding than with Obamacare. His mania to undo all things Obama could cost upwards of 20 million Americans their health insurance during a pandemic.
Trump repeatedly has promised to repeal Obama’s Affordable Care Act and replace it with a better, cheaper plan that retains its popular provisions.
For example, in June 2019, Trump said in an ABC News interview he’d propose “in about two months, maybe less” a “phenomenal” health plan that would be “less expensive than Obamacare by a lot.”
We’re still waiting.
Obamacare is not perfect, and supporters want to mend it. Critics complain premiums are too high. Some people get subsidies to help defray the cost, but not all.
On the plus side, the 2010 law protects women from being charged more than men and people with pre-existing conditions from being denied coverage. It provides free health screenings and allows children up to age 26 to be covered under their parents’ plans.
The Trump administration filed a brief June 25 in the Supreme Court, saying the entire ACA “must fall” because Congress in 2017 eliminated the financial penalty for those who fail to buy health insurance.
Meanwhile, coronavirus cases are surging around the country, and hospitals in some states are filling up. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned Tuesday the number of cases could soon jump from 40,000 a day now to 100,000 a day.
Fortunately, Obamacare remains in place. About half a million people have signed up for coverage in special enrollments as they’ve lost their jobs and their health insurance.
The court will hear oral arguments in California v. Texas in October at the earliest, so Obamacare could loom large just before the election. A ruling is expected by next spring or early summer.
Democratic candidates who rode the health care horse to victory in 2018, gaining control of the House, are saddling up again. The House Tuesday approved an Obamacare expansion in a vote largely along party lines. It was symbolic as the measure is dead in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Democrats remind voters if they contract and survive COVID-19 in a world without Obamacare they could lose their health insurance or it could be priced beyond their means – because they’d have a pre-existing condition. COVID-19 survivors often have impaired lungs and other organs. Survivors of cancer and other diseases could face a similar crisis.
Trump’s base, including the 18 red states hoping to overturn the ACA, are delighted Trump is still sticking it to Obamacare, but Republican candidates, especially in key Senate races, are being left high and dry.
Democrats need only three seats to retake the Senate if Democrat Joe Biden wins the White House, four if Trump is re-elected. Some Republican candidates are scrambling to position themselves as defenders of health care.
Analysts on the right concede the timing of the administration’s brief and Supreme Court action on Obamacare is terrible for GOP candidates. The Trump re-election campaign hammers on Democrats’ “Bernie Sanders-inspired, socialist health care agenda,” and barely mentions Obamacare.
Don’t expect a Trump plan before November. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Sunday there would be none until after the court rules and a new Congress is in place.
What the court will do is anyone’s guess. Chief Justice John Roberts saved Obamacare in 2012. He wrote the 5 to 4 majority opinion saying the individual mandate, a requirement that most Americans have insurance or pay a penalty, was within Congress’s power to tax.
The Republican-controlled Congress in 2017 eliminated the penalty, which the law’s opponents contend makes the law unconstitutional.
It’s hard to imagine a worse time to push to eliminate a law that guarantees millions of Americans health insurance, no matter whose name is on it.
©2020 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.