Trump undercuts Obamacare as governors push for bipartisan Murray-Alexander fix

October 21, 2017, 4:29 pm

As President Donald Trump continues his assault on Obamacare — halving the enrollment period, cutting low-income subsidies and slashing marketing budgets by 90 percent — a bipartisan group of governors trudges on with its efforts to work with Congress to shore up health-insurance markets and bring down rates.

Gov. John Hickenlooper

Gov. John Hickenlooper

On Wednesday, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and a group of nine other Democratic and Republican governors urged Congress (pdf) to move quickly to pass legislation to stabilize health insurance markets and make it more affordable ahead of the condensed open enrollment period that kicks off Nov. 1.

“Federal law requires insurers to provide discounted cost-sharing for lower income Americans,” the governors point out. “With the elimination of federal payments for the cost sharing reduction program, insurers are faced with significant financial losses, which could force them to withdraw from the marketplace, or, in some states, request significant rate increases.”

Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democrat Sen. Patty Murray of Washington have negotiated a bipartisan deal that helps achieve some of the  governors’ goals, so the group sent a letter to Congress urging a vote on Alexander-Murray by the House and Senate. Trump alternately indicated both support and disapproval of the bill over the course of three days this week, making its future uncertain.

The legality of Trump’s efforts to do what Congress was unable to do — essentially repeal Obamacare using executive orders and funding sabotage — may not be legal. According to the Constitution, presidents must “take care that the law be faithfully executed,” and Obamacare remains the law of the land. But to some extent, the damage has already been done, and the number of uninsured Americans is climbing.

No matter what happens before Congress convenes later this year, Trump has put his imprint on the Affordable Care Act, destabilizing it in many significant ways and turning it into his own version of Trumpcare.

michael bennet

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet has joined fellow Democrat Tim Kaine of Virginia in proposing a plan called Medicare X to develop a public option on the Obamacare marketplaces, according to Vox. It would be rolled out first in places like rural Colorado with only one or two private insurance options.

“I don’t think the United States should be the only country to not have universal health care at a reasonable cost,” Bennet told Vox. “I also think we need to recognize there are a lot of people who get their insurance through their employer and like the insurance they have through their employer.”

The Kaine-Bennet plan will have a long uphill fight in both Republican-controlled chambers.

And with less than 10 days until the open enrollment period begins, uncertainty and chaos rule the day, as insurance companies continue to jack up rates for individual and small-group plans and no replacement plan has been passed to stabilize insurance markets.

Unless something dramatic happens soon, Obamacare will be well on its way to becoming Trumpcare, with millions of Americans paying higher premiums and deductibles, or losing coverage altogether.

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David O. Williams
David O. Williams is an award-winning freelance reporter based in the Vail Valley of Colorado, writing on health care, immigration, politics, the environment, energy, public lands, outdoor recreation and sports. His work has appeared in 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the Colorado Independent, Colorado Politics formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington),, the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the London Daily Mirror, the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, Atlantic Media's (formerly Government Executive State and Local), SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail and Westword (Denver). Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of and

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