Pennsylvania’s Casey exposes Trump’s written plan to dismantle ACA
Tracie Mauriello, Post-Gazette Washington Bureau January 11, 2018
WASHINGTON — It’s no secret that President Donald Trump has been trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, but it took a dogged Democrat to pry the written plan from the administration and expose it.
That Democrat is Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, who obtained it from the administration after blocking three of the president’s health nominees to get it.
The White House initially shared the plan with members of the conservative Freedom Caucus in March in an attempt to get them to vote for a partial Obamacare repeal. Several Freedom Caucus members were concerned that the repeal bill didn’t go far enough.
The administration was “pushing very, very hard and they were essentially buying votes” for the March repeal vote promising to sabotage other parts of the health care system, Mr. Casey said.
He learned about the document in a March 26 story in Politico, and had been trying to get his hands on it ever since, but the administration resisted until the senator blocked confirmation of three Health and Human Services nominees using a “hold,” a procedural maneuver that allows any senator to unilaterally stop a vote.
A hold is an extreme measure that Mr. Casey can’t remember using before.
He told the Department of Health and Human Services in October that he would release his holds if they turned over the document. Six weeks later the administration released it, and Mr. Casey went public with it Wednesday as part of a written report.
“It shouldn’t have required all that. This is a piece of paper, but they knew it wouldn’t read well,” Mr. Casey said. “It wasn’t for public consumption but purely to get the votes of members of Congress whose views are a lot more extreme than even a lot of Trump voters.”
HHS did not respond to a request for comment.
The document points out that the secretary of Health and Human Services has “significant authority to improve the individual and small group markets harmed by Obamacare” and suggests changes he could make in 10 areas.
The proposals, some of which have since been implemented, include reducing enrollment periods, authorizing states to interpret coverage rules for coverage of essential benefits, discourage doctors from steering patients to Obamacare marketplace plans that are more lucrative to providers than Medicaid and Medicare, and encourage states to build “skinny exchanges” that cost less and rely on private sector innovation.
Although Mr. Trump made no secret of his plan to use executive orders and other means to pull apart Obamacare, Mr. Casey said the president was never forthright with details he should have been transparent about.
“It’s horrific that government officials are taking steps to erect barriers to prevent people from getting coverage,” he said. “This secret document demonstrates how far the administration and congressional Republicans are willing to go, engaging in slimy backroom deals to further their sabotage agenda.”
He said the one-page document presents a “wrecking ball of changes” to appease far right members of Congress rather than to serve the American people. “It isn’t like Donald Trump said, ‘Hey folks, this is what I’m going to do and I want you to know about it.’ This was a backroom deal with a bunch of hard-right Freedom Caucus members.”
Mr. Casey said he became aware Thursday of documents related to 200 other health policy changes HHS is pursuing. He said he plans to try to shake loose those records next.
“That will be the next battle on this front,” he said. “It’s part of our obligation to do aggressive oversight, especially when the oversight involves something as serious and grave as to whether someone can have health insurance.”.
Washington Bureau Chief Tracie Mauriello: firstname.lastname@example.org; 703-996-9292 or on Twitter @pgPoliTweets.
The Trump Administration is sabotaging the American health care system by trying to undermine consumer protections against insurance companies. We need to fight this.