The Corner

Health Care

Unforced Errors on Preexisting Conditions

President Donald Trump delivers a statement about Iran at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 8, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

These Trump tweets have stirred up quite the reaction among lefties. I hate to say it, but the lefties have a point.

Obamacare — enacted under, well, Obama — is the reason it’s generally illegal for insurers in the individual market to take enrollees’ health into account when setting premiums. Trump didn’t “save” these protections; to the contrary, the GOP’s various failed replacement bills would have weakened them to a debatable extent, and the administration has (to its credit!) expanded the availability of plans that don’t comply with Obamacare’s regulations. Further, if the Trump-backed lawsuit aiming to eliminate Obamacare succeeds, the direct effect will be, uh, to eliminate Obamacare, including those popular preexisting-condition provisions Trump is trying to take credit for.

True, if Republicans win the House, a victory in the lawsuit may in theory give them an opening to replace the law without needing to repeal it too, and any Republican plan will offer at least some help to those with preexisting conditions. But that’s getting pretty far ahead of ourselves. Republicans failed to get a health-care plan through the last time they had the chance, and if Obamacare is struck down in its entirety, it will become a lot harder to pass all the needed reforms through the “reconciliation” process that allows bills to go through the Senate with 50 votes instead of 60.

By this point I’ve made my view of the GOP lawsuit pretty clear. The legal arguments are bad, and it’s politically unwise for red states and the Trump administration to toss a hand grenade into the individual market after they’ve done so much to improve it over the past few years. And it’s hard to say you support the current preexisting-condition protections when you’ve signed onto a lawsuit that will destroy them if it succeeds.


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