Froma Harrop: Trump’s long history of holding health care hostage

Froma Harrop

The story of Donald Trump and health coverage rightly starts with the story of Donald Trump and William Trump.

William was born in 1999, fighting for his life. He suffered seizures, and his breathing stopped twice.

William’s medical bills were enormous. That’s when Donald tried to remove the infant from the Trump family health plan.

Why? Retaliation against his nephew (William’s father) for challenging the will of Fred Sr. It seems the Trump patriarch had left the family of one son — Donald’s deceased brother, Fred Jr. — largely out of his estate. Any part Donald may have played in nudging the elderly Fred Sr. to do that is not public knowledge. What’s clear is that with his brother basically cut from the will, Donald inherited many more millions.

But the family lawyer ruled that no, you can’t throw baby William off the family’s health plan. William survived, though he later developed cerebral palsy.

My point is to note the president’s indifference to questions of life and death when dollars enter the picture. Here he actually held his own grandnephew’s life hostage in a fight over money.

Which brings us to Trump’s diabolical crusade to blow up the Affordable Care Act. The Republican Congress failed to kill Obamacare for him, so he’s now single-handedly destabilizing the health exchanges through various executive acts. Should they collapse, he’ll say over the wreckage, “See? I told you it was a disaster.”

Trump’s latest, and most extreme, move is to take away $7 billion in subsidies that help 7 million low-income people afford health insurance. The result would be as follows: The sick desperate for coverage would bear the freight, while the healthy would have less incentive to buy into the exchanges. Premiums for the popular plans would spike by 25 percent, the Congressional Budget Office estimates.

Heaven knows Republican lawmakers tried to destroy Obamacare on their own. They couldn’t because nearly the entire medical establishment called for saving the program, and huge numbers of their constituents depend on it. Their last stab was the Graham-Cassidy bill, which would have slashed spending on Medicaid. That doomed effort followed Republican senators’ meeting with rich donors demanding that money be freed up for their tax cuts.

Congress could possibly come up with cost-sharing funds. Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., have been working on a bill to do that. And Trump may go along if he can tack on highly controversial proposals that could not pass on their own. The ludicrous wall with Mexico, for instance.

As his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, put it, “I’m pretty sure what we won’t support, which is just a clean Murray-Alexander bill.”

Even if the subsidies are restored, Trump is already well on his way to his goal through psychological warfare — spreading confusion among consumers, insurers and states. It was surely no accident that he detonated this latest smoke bomb two weeks before the start of the ACA enrollment period.

This happened also right after the deadline had passed for insurers to sign contracts setting new rates for the ACA exchanges in most states. (Oregon was the first state to respond, telling insurers to raise rates on the popular plans by 7.1 percent.)

Anyone who has long observed the six-time-bankrupt con man in action — not that we don’t like him — is unsurprised to learn that Trump has zero intention of honoring his campaign promise to preserve health benefits and not cut Medicaid. Really, if he would deny health coverage for a dying member of his own family, an infant, imagine how little your flesh and blood matters in his worldview.

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