Picture this scenario: imagine it’s 2009, and a leading Democrat bragged about cutting supplies for Army units in Iraq, hampering the war effort. Crazy, right? Well, it’s 2017, and the second most powerful Republican in the U.S. Senate just bragged about how he and his colleagues sabotaged part of the Affordable Care Act, undermining a program that helps millions to get health insurance.
In an interview with Bloomberg News, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who is the Senate Majority Whip, boasted that a provision of the GOP tax cut bill eliminates the individual mandate, making the Affordable Care Act “unworkable.”
While the most important function of the mandate is to encourage healthy people to sign up for coverage, so that insurers can spread the cost of high medical bills broadly and, in the process, keep premiums more manageable, it also guarantees protection for people with pre-existing conditions.
The mandate is generally unpopular for the people who end up paying it, but without the mandate in place, premiums will rise for people buying coverage on their own, insurers will be more likely to abandon markets, and the number of people without coverage will increase.
Nobody seriously disputes this. The only question is over the magnitude of the effects.
Cornyn is well aware of this and, judging by comments that Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday, it’s the outcome he prefers.
“Arguably, doing away with the individual mandate makes the Affordable Care Act unworkable ― not that it was particularly great beforehand,” Cornyn said. “Hopefully this will precipitate the bipartisan negotiation on what we need to do as an alternative.”
Republicans have repeatedly said that a collapse of the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces would spark a political crisis, forcing Democrats to negotiate with Republicans over crafting a new system. And President Trump has actively undermined the program ― by, for example, slashing funding for enrollment outreach and cutting off a set of key payments to insurers.
As Huffington Post reports:
“These moves have already taken a toll. The number of Americans without insurance, which had reached historic lows, has started to tick back up. Premiums for people buying coverage on their own this year are considerably higher than they would be if not for GOP sabotage.”
The polls tell a consistent story about how the public will react if insurance markets continue to deteriorate, so that premiums keep going up and carriers keep leaving markets.
Voters say they are more likely to hold Republicans, rather than Democrats, responsible for what happens with health care now. Given the GOP’s recent action and rhetoric, it’s no wonder why.”