Covered California Thinks It Can Survive Trump

Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Despite President-elect Donald Trump picking hard-core Obamacare foe Republican Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services, California’s huge Obamacare exchange thinks it can survive the promised “repeal and replace.”

Price is an accomplished orthopedic surgeon, elected 6 times to the House of Representatives. He is currently Chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee.

Price is a staunch conservative, having regularly voted against federal funding for abortion; groups like Planned Parenthood; legislation requiring the FDA to regulate tobacco as a drug; and a bill to providing four weeks of parental leave for all federal employees.

He has also has voted dozens of times since 2010 to repeal the “Affordable Care Act” (Obamacare), and has introduced a number of what he calls doctor/patient-friendly replacement bills that could serve as a replacement for Obamacare.

If confirmed by the Senate, Price is “shovel-ready” to dump Obamacare and replace it with the “Empowering Patients First Act,” which creates incentives for people to contribute to health savings accounts; offers grants to states to subsidize insurance for “high-risk populations”; and allows insurers to sell healthcare policies across state lines for the first time.

Covered California’s executive director Peter Lee commented that he has met Dr. Price many times and is committed to finding common ground for California healthcare plans in the future. Lee told KPCC that despite Price having a “strong market bent, “He’s a physician, he cares about patients.”

Of the 6.4 million people signed up for Obamacare by the mid-December deadline, about 1.4 million, or 22 percent, are enrolled in Covered California, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Other than California and New York, the states with the most people selecting Obamacare coverage all went for Trump in the presidential election: Florida, with just with 1.3 million; Texas with about 776,000; North Carolina with 369,077; Georgia with 352,000; and Pennsylvania with 290,950.

The main reason that Obamacare failed miserably for most paying Americans is that it caused individual market healthcare insurance premiums for Americans to jump by 49 percent in 2013 and 2014 across all counties in America, according to the Manhattan Institute. That does not include an additional 20.4 percent in federal “reinsurance subsidies” to cover the cost of patients with significant preconditions during the start-up.

Obamacare’s biggest accomplishment for the left was exploding Medicaid coverage to 68 million people in 2016 – or 16 million more people than was projected six years ago, when the law passed. The added cost of the expansion to U.S. taxpayers is now estimated at $146 billion in the next decade.

California’s Medi-Cal saw by far the largest jump, from 2.5 million in 2012 to 10 million in 2016. That amounts to almost 4 million, or about double what was originally projected.

Covered California’s Peter Lee notes that about 5 million Californians, or about 18 percent of the state’s population, have received health insurance or Medicaid because of Obamacare. His organization projects that the State of California would stand to lose more than $15 billion in annual federal payments if Obamacare is repealed.

Lee’s best argument he will offer Tom Price is that the number of uninsured Californians will double if Obamacare is repealed and nothing is offered as a replacement. Lee told KPCC, “I’m hopeful he’ll listen to the evidence” regarding the Affordable Care Act’s patient benefits.


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