AJOC EDITORIAL: Congress turns to Trump to bail out Obamacare
Senate Republicans have set the bar pretty high for achievements in failure.
By bungling their attempt to repeal or replace Obamacare, they accomplished the impossible: they now own a law that none of them voted for in the first place and in fact campaigned for seven years to scrap.
Of course there is a sound argument to be made that Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and John McCain have indeed voted for Obamacare by casting the decisive votes to kill the “skinny repeal” bill and derailing a conference committee process to reconcile with the bill passed earlier this year by the House of Representatives.
Bizarrely, some Republican members of the Senate are now asking President Donald Trump to continue bailing out the disastrous legislation by maintaining the payments to insurance companies that were ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in May 2016.
In an unprecedented case, the U.S. House successfully sued the Obama administration for making the billions worth of payments annually despite the fact there was no congressional appropriation to do so.
Expecting an appeal, the judge who found in favor of the House argument stayed her order pending resolution of the case, which allowed President Barack Obama to continue sending the unauthorized cash to insurance companies in cost-sharing reimbursements, or CSRs.
Trump has held off on the appeal and kept up the CSRs despite their dubious legal status since he took office while giving Congress a chance to deliver on the promises made since voters handed them the majority in the House in 2010, the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016.
But now he is threatening to stop the payments and let one of the greatest flaws in the law take effect instead of papering over the problem by shoveling billions more in taxpayer and borrowed dollars out the door.
Ever since Obamacare passed in March 2010 there have been multiple waivers and delays of its worst features to cover up just how bad it is. The GOP was even complicit in this in 2015 when the party voted to delay implementation of the so-called “Cadillac tax” on expensive health insurance policies that would sweep up virtually every union plan in the country and is vehemently opposed by labor groups.
All of the “popular” parts of Obamacare — Medicaid expansion, coverage of preexisting conditions, staying on a parent’s policy until age 26 — were allowed to take effect immediately while the worst parts were put off as states got hooked on the federal sugar.
Having fallen on their faces trying to repeal or replace Obamacare and lacking the political will to actually appropriate funds for the CSRs, Trump is being set up as the fall guy by his party if he doesn’t keep up the payments that very same party successfully sued to stop.
The other threat Trump has made is to reverse Obama’s decision through the Office of Personnel Management to classify Congress as a “small business” despite its 20,000 employees. That OPM action allowed the federal government to keep contributing 72 percent of congressional employee premiums despite the fact individuals on the exchanges are otherwise not allowed to receive such benefits.
Obamacare has been held together through a patchwork of carveouts, bailouts and handouts, executive orders and illegal payments all designed to mislead the public about its costs and negative impacts.
If the only way to spur Congress to act is to allow those negative impacts to take place then so be it, and sooner rather than later.
Andrew Jensen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.