Could Trump Sabotage the ACA to Push GOP Healthcare?

  • Calvin Wolf
  • Mar 30, 2017 1:40PM

If there is anything Donald Trump hates, it’s losing. His presidential campaign was based almost entirely on sheer confidence and bluster, an intentional crafting of an image of winning. In a shock to pundits everywhere, it worked. Despite having zero public sector experience, Donald Trump bested the most experienced wonks in the business. His appeal to voters was that he was a doer and a winner, not a smooth talker.

Less than three months into his first term in office, Trump is now struggling to maintain his “winning image.” One of his key campaign promises, to repeal Obamacare, is in serious jeopardy after the initial attempt failed miserably. Despite his party controlling both the House and Senate, Trump could not stop intra-party disagreements sinking the American Health Care Act. The House bill, supposed to go for a floor vote on March 24, was called off when it appeared that too many Republicans would not vote for it.

For such a momentous bill to fail has been damaging to Trump’s image and renews questions about the political rookie’s ability to govern. Trump has criticized the tabling of the AHCA bill and still insists that Obamacare is a doomed law. He, and many other conservatives, have warned that Obamacare is in a “death spiral” and should be replaced before it can “collapse” and hurt consumers. Indeed, major health insurance companies have started abandoning the Obamacare exchanges, claiming that they cannot stay in business under the law’s regulations.

If Obamacare collapses, would Trump be vindicated? Would Republican legislators return to his side and offer their loyalty? The bombastic billionaire could go from being seen as foolish to being seen as wise and savvy.

Alarmingly, it turns out that there is a way for Trump to sabotage Obamacare and potentially force it into the “death spiral” he insists is imminent. Under previous President Barack Obama, a lawsuit put in jeopardy some $7 billion in Obamacare reimbursement funds to health insurers.  The Democratic White House was fighting to keep the subsidy program, while House Republicans were trying to block funding. With the turnover in presidents, the appeal has been put on pause.

President Donald Trump could decide, at any moment, to drop the White House’s appeal and let the $7 billion in subsidies to insurers disappear. Additionally, Trump and his Health and Human Services Secretary, Tom Price, could end any and all federal advertising for Obamacare’s open enrollment period, hoping to reduce the number of people signing up for insurance under it.  HHS could also take a step back and avoid trying to help stabilize health insurance markets that operate under Obamacare, hoping that instability takes over.

If Trump and Price decide to end any executive branch assistance for Obamacare, its system could indeed implode.