Throughout 2017, the Republican push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and make drastic cuts to Medicaid was front page news. While this effort has largely receded from the headlines, the Trump administration continues to undermine our access to health coverage and care.
Here are three ways the Trump administration is sabotaging the ACA:
1) Drastic cuts to ACA outreach and enrollment resources: Recently, the administration announced it was again slashing ACA Navigator funding for the 2019 Open Enrollment period. This program funds community organizations that provide in-person outreach and enrollment assistance to help people enroll in health coverage.
We must continue to use the power of our collective voice both in our communities and at the ballot box to protect our care.
Since 2016, the Trump administration has cut funding for this program by nearly 90%. There is now just $10 million available for these programs in the 38 states that use the federal healthcare.gov enrollment platform. For comparison, California, which has its own state-based marketplace, spends $6.5 million on its navigator program.
2) Expanding ‘junk plans’: Last week, the Trump administration issued new guidance expanding short-term, ‘junk plans,’ that do not comply with the ACA. Unlike ACA-compliant plans, these plans are not required to cover essential health benefits like prescription drugs, mental health, or maternity care. These plans can deny coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and often saddle consumers with high medical bills when they need care.
By reducing access to in-person information and promoting ‘junk plans,’ the administration is making it more difficult for people to enroll in quality health coverage, while increasing the cost of that coverage. This combination will cause many more people to become uninsured.
3) Lawsuit to repeal the Affordable Care Act: In February, Texas and 19 other Republican-led states filed a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court to nullify the ACA. The lawsuit’s objective is to repeal the ACA through the courts, even though Congress and the American people rejected these efforts last year.
In June, the Trump administration announced that it would no longer be defending the entire law in court. The administration now argues in favor of nullifying critical ACA consumer protections like banning discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, and capping the cost of health insurance for older Americans. Not only is it highly unusual for the U.S. Department of Justice to file a motion against an existing federal law, it demonstrates the lengths this administration will go to sabotage the ACA.
The Trump administration is also actively undermining the Medicaid program, approving state waivers imposing work requirements and other harmful provisions for the first time in the 53-year history of the program.
In June, a federal judge ruled that the Trump administration had erred in approving Kentucky’s Medicaid waiver, halting implementation of the state’s new work requirement. The judge ruled that the waiver approval process had not adequately considered the impact on the 95,000 Kentuckians that would lose health coverage under this program.
Rather than consider the impact this waiver would have on people’s access to health coverage, the administration instead announced a new 30-day comment period, even though neither the waiver or the administration’s ruling had changed. The administration’s goal is to collect supportive comments to justify its decision to reduce access to health coverage through Medicaid.
Last year, we used the spirit of civic engagement and community activism to protect our community’s access to health coverage and care. While the ACA remains the law of the land, these latest headlines provide a timely reminder that our health care remains under threat. We must continue to use the power of our collective voice both in our communities and at the ballot box to protect our care.
UnidosUS is a non-profit serving the Hispanic community through research, policy analysis, and state and national advocacy efforts, UnidosUS.org.