California Republicans — including Reps. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa), and Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) — spent a great deal of time in 2017 trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Republican efforts to undermine access to health insurance are now, unfortunately, paying off for the GOP — but not for California citizens.
Covered California reports about 35,000 fewer people signed up for health insurance for 2018, about a two percent drop from 2017. Nationwide, private insurance sign-ups through ACA marketplaces dropped by four percent in 2018, the second consecutive year to see a decline.
In California, the uninsured rate dropped from 17 percent in 2013 to a historic low of 6.8 percent as of June 2017. Despite this encouraging progress, Republicans were determined to undermine the law. And when Trump entered the White House, Republicans were excited about the possibility of fulfilling a longtime promise to repeal the ACA.
In May 2017, Southern California Republicans voted for the GOP plan, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said would have resulted in 24 million less people insured over the following 10 years. Further, health insurance premiums would be significantly higher for individuals with preexisting conditions.
When their plan failed to pass the Senate, Republicans settled for inserting changes to the ACA into the wildly unpopular tax bill.
While Congress was busy trying to undermine health care through legislation, Trump was using his power to cut the health care budget and keep enrollment low. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, states that rely on Healthcare.gov as their marketplace provider saw “a 90 percent, $90 million cut in advertising and promotion spending by the Trump administration.”
The lack of outreach effort has dramatically reduced the number of new enrollees. According to Covered California, “In particular, in the two years that the current administration has been at least partially responsible for promoting enrollment — which included the decision to reduce marketing during the end of open enrollment for the 2017 plan year and to reduce marketing spending dramatically for 2018 — new enrollment has declined 38 percent (from 4 million in 2016 to 2.5 million in 2018).”
According to Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, next year “looks very troubling.” Lee is worried because the changes that Republicans put into the tax bill are a significant factor in premiums skyrocketing by up to 30 percent. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “These projected premium increases would apply to the roughly 6 million Americans, including 1 million in California, who earn too much to qualify for federal subsidies.”
Southern California Republicans are supporting policies that result in fewer people getting health care and increasing costs for those who are covered. That’s a dangerous combination and could spell trouble for Southern California Republicans in November.