Email #306: “a great HealthCare Bill”?

President Trump tweeted Saturday:

“I called Chuck Schumer yesterday to see if the Dems want to do a great HealthCare Bill. ObamaCare is badly broken, big premiums. Who knows!”

Schumer responded:

“The president wanted to make another run at repeal and replace and I told the president that’s off the table. If he wants to work together to improve the existing health care system, we Democrats are open to his suggestions. A good place to start might be the Alexander-Murray negotiations that would stabilize the system and lower costs.”

I wrote to you about the Alexander-Murray bill last month, predicting that if it passes:

“the President will describe it as ‘essentially’ a repeal of the ACA anyway and so claim to have accomplished a campaign promise.”

His phone call to Senator Schumer on Friday is the first tangible step to that increasingly likely outcome. If the President makes a deal with Democrat leaders, moderate Republicans will join, and the country will get a law that will “increase access to care and deliver affordable health insurance options.” Those are the two goals you emphasized in July, and so I assume you still prioritize them.

You also said last December that you were “working towards a bi-partisan solution to solve the problem of unaffordable health care.” So you must be pleased that the President is now working towards a bi-partisan solution too. Since a majority of your constituents will applaud any legislation that President Trump calls “a great HealthCare Bill,” are you prepared to cross the aisle and pass a Trump-ObamaCare bill that improves but does not repeal the ACA?

Since partisan repeals have proven impossible, the only other alternative is a permanent but increasingly ineffective ACA. The Congressional Budget Office’s original projections were based on the assumption that over 20 million people would enter the ACA market, but less than half as many actually did. As long as enrolments remain low, the ACA will remain affordable only for those receiving subsidies. But those subsidies will also prevent a complete collapse, locking the system in permanent dysfunction.

Despite this, the Trump administration is cutting the next ACA sign-up period from twelve weeks to only six, and the sign-up website will be shut down on all but one of those Sundays, even though Sunday is one of the most popular sign-up days. The administration has also cut funding to enrollment assistance groups by 40% and the advertising budget by 90%, even though many Americans are unaware that the ACA is still available or that they need to re-up to maintain their coverage. The end result will be even fewer enrollees and so even higher premiums.

If President Trump has a strategy it must be to further weaken the ACA so greatly that a bipartisan repair bill will so drastically improve the system that the result will “essentially” be a repeal and replacement. If that’s the President idea of “a great HealthCare Bill,” I’ll grudgingly support it. Will you?

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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