Originally in the Raleigh News & Observer

October 17, 2017

In a thankfully predictable continuation of his commitment to protect North Carolina consumers, state Attorney General Josh Stein is joining 18 other attorneys general in a federal lawsuit to block the foolish and purely political maneuver of President Trump to stop federal subsidies for those covered by health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

The move by Trump follows Republican failures to repeal the ACA, and it’s a nasty little trick akin to a kid hiding a dump truck in a sand box. Except that cutting subsidies will cost millions of people their insurance and force them into the “junk insurance” Trump now advocates as a replacement for “Obamacare.” That would give people low-cost insurance in exchange for low-quality, minimal care.

The fact that Republicans have had such a hard time replacing the ACA – their replacements, so-called, would have cost 20 million or more people their health insurance – ought to tell the president and Republican leaders that the momentum for erasing President Obama’s signature achievement has diminished. In fact, more recent polls have shown more people in favor of “Obamacare” than opposed to it.

But in Trumpworld, that doesn’t matter. The president has no agenda of his own, so he’s become obsessed with dismantling anything associated with President Obama, whether it’s the ACA or the Iran nuclear deal.

Stein, who once headed the Consumer Protection Division of the AG’s office, understands the human price to be paid for Trump’s petulance. “This is a triple whammy,” he says. “The increased costs for poor people, more people will choose to be uninsured and hundreds of billions of dollars more for the federal government to pay (in other subsidies to keep general insurance premiums lower).” Stein notes there are 300,000 North Carolinians who get the subsidies Trump has ended, but 500,000 North Carolinians who are insured through the ACA. This year, thanks to an agreement with Blue Cross and Blue Shield on premium costs, most of those people will be OK. But next year, Stein says, the increases might be 20-25 percent for people insured through the health care exchanges.

In announcing the fact he was joining the suit, Stein said, “I am suing President Trump today for his unlawful and reckless decision to stop payments that help hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians afford health insurance. His act wreaks havoc on the health care system. It will lead to higher insurance costs for individuals, cause insurance companies to leave the individual health insurance market, increase the number of people without health insurance and cost taxpayers $194 billion over the next 10 years.”

North Carolina has one of the nation’s most robust enrollments for insurance under the ACA. It also has substantial numbers of families that rely on Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled. Had the state’s Republican-run legislature opted to expand Medicaid as allowed under the ACA, hundreds of thousands of people would have been helped.

In North Carolina, only Blue Cross and Blue Shield offers insurance in all 100 counties, and the company is having to request rate hikes to cover what will be lost if the subsidies are eliminated. That’s only going to continue if Trump successfully implodes the ACA altogether.

The president’s wild promises of a health care insurance system that would be cheaper and better for all Americans are clearly something he never had a plan to achieve, and now he offers no plan of his own but the continued promise to destroy Obamacare, which he has pronounced a disaster. But it’s hardly a disaster for the 20 million-plus Americans who have health insurance because of it.

Only through actions of elected officials such as Stein banding together in an attempt to truly serve the public will North Carolinians and other Americans have health insurance they can afford that will keep them and their families healthy, or restore them to health after an illness.