The Trump administration has handed Democrats more ammunition in the midterm election debate over health care — you know, the issue (aside from Trump himself) voters say they care about most.
Premium Increases for 2019
“It's an October ‘surprise’ that everyone sees coming, including Democrats trying to take back the House and Senate,” NBC News’ Benjy Sarlin and Alex Seitz-Wald say: New, higher insurance rates will cause voters pain and consternation just before they head to the polls. The Congressional Budget Office has projected that Obamacare premiums will rise by an average of 15 percent for 2019 — and insurers in some states have already asked for even higher increases. CBO laid the blame for soaring prices on a number policy choices implemented by Trump and Republicans, including the tax overhaul’s zeroing out of the penalty for individuals who don’t buy insurance.
"One argument that has an enormous amount of power with voters is that Trump and the Republicans gave both the insurance companies and the drug companies huge tax cuts — and they're continuing to jack up people's costs nevertheless,” Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster, told NBC News.
Fighting Obamacare’s Protections for People with Pre-Existing Conditions
The administration’s decision, announced last week, to not defend the Affordable Care Act in a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality is political dynamite. “Protections for people with pre-existing conditions are hugely popular,” writes the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Drew Altman at Axios, “and the administration may have handed Democrats their strongest health care weapon yet — because now they can make the case that the administration has gone to court to take away protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions. The case is also likely to drag on, so it could be the political gift that keeps on giving through 2020, even if it is eventually thrown out.”
In a 2016 study, the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that 52 million non-elderly adults had pre-existing conditions — see some examples here — that would have made them uninsurable before the Affordable Care Act was passed. Kaiser’s March tracking poll found that 84 percent of Democrats support the idea of prohibiting insurers from charging sick people more — as do 68 percent of independents and 59 percent of Republicans.
"Preexisting conditions is something everyone agreed we should keep,” one Republican strategist working on Senate races told The Washington Post. “Picking this fight going into the summer of an election year is mind-boggling."
Democrats, who have already been hammering a health care message, are pouncing at the new opportunity. As the Post’s Jennifer Rubin writes: “Democrats will waste no time in making this into a simple, sound-bite argument: Republicans will let people with preexisting conditions lose coverage; we won’t. Every vote for the tax bill, which Republicans love to tout, will now be cast as a vote against caring for people with preexisting conditions.”