The Trump administration has flip-flopped so many times on health care that it’s hard to keep track. In May, Trump partied with Republican representatives in the Rose Garden, calling their bill a “great plan” that was “incredibly well crafted.” A month later, Trump called that same plan “mean” and encouraged senators to make their bill different.
A few weeks later, Mitch McConnell finally let people see the bill his aides had been drafting in secret. That same day, Trump said of McConnell’s plan, “It’s going to be very good.” That opinion lasted for a whole week. Then Senator Ben Sasse went on Fox News and suggested repealing Obamacare without a replacement ready. Despite the many Americans that this would immediately hurt, Trump tweeted his support for that idea, undermining McConnell’s efforts.
As Republicans continue to struggle to strip insurance from millions of people to pay for a tax cut for the wealthy, Trump remains easily distracted. The latest shiny idea comes from Ted Cruz. It would make terrible policy but has already been endorsed by the White House.
Cruz’s plan? Allow insurance companies to sell crappy insurance.
More precisely, his scheme would allow insurers to sell plans that offer minimal benefits, exclude people with pre-existing conditions, and basically act like they did in the days before Obamacare. The only requirement on them would be to offer one, just one, plan that complies with the existing Obamacare rules.
It’s easy to predict what would happen under such a system. Insurers would price their Obamacare-compliant plans prohibitively high because they wouldn’t really want those customers anyway. Most people who have to buy in the individual market would be either be stuck with minimal coverage or no insurance at all. People with pre-existing conditions would go back to hoping they could get coverage through their job or a spouse, hoping to avoid the chaos.
The big advantage of Cruz’s idea, at least to Republicans, is that it makes it easy to lie to constituents. Expect to hear talking points about how this plan maintains all of Obamacare’s protections and exchanges. After all, House Republicans resorted to equally misleading statements claiming that the House bill protected people with pre-existing conditions.
The most pressing question is whether the White House will continue to support Cruz’s bad idea, or flip-flop as it has on every other health care idea. Will we soon see a Trump tweet excoriating Cruz and his sinister plan? We can only hope so.