White House report claims Trump didn't sabotage Obamacare

/ AP

Judge rules Obamacare unconstitutional

WASHINGTON—Borrowing a word from Democrats, a new White House report says changes made to the Affordable Care Act under President Trump didn't amount to "sabotage."

Due out Friday, the report from the Council of Economic Advisers says Obama-era subsidies that help low- and middle-income customers pay their premiums will keep HealthCare.gov afloat even if some healthy people drop out or seek other coverage because of Trump's changes. Nearly 90 percent of customers get taxpayer-provided assistance.

The report looks at three big changes under Mr. Trump that affect former President Barack Obama's health care law. They are congressional repeal of the law's unpopular fines on people who go uninsured, "association health plans" for small businesses that can be marketed across state lines, and low-cost short-term health insurance that doesn't have to cover pre-existing conditions or basic benefits like prescription drugs.

"These reforms do not 'sabotage' the ACA but rather provide a more efficient focus of tax-funded care to those in need," the report says. The council is a White House agency that advises the president.

Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation said less regulation "isn't automatically an act of sabotage," but Mr. Trump has made clear his hostility to "Obamacare."

"The president seemed to take pride in undermining the ACA, but now his administration is resisting the argument that they have undermined the health law," said Levitt, who reviewed the report for AP. "They can point to benefits of deregulation, but will also have to live with the costs, which include higher premiums for middle-class people with pre-existing conditions."

The report comes as House Democrats under Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., are moving to shore up the ACA, including trying to undo some of Trump's insurance changes. Although such a rollback seems unlikely to succeed under divided government, there has been bipartisan support for measures that would help reduce premiums and guarantee coverage for pre-existing conditions. Restoring the ad budget for HealthCare.gov slashed by Mr. Trump is also a possibility.

Democratic White House hopefuls are seizing on health care as an issue, with some pushing for a government-run system that would cover all Americans and replace "Obamacare."

About 10 million people continue to get private insurance through the ACA's subsidized markets, or exchanges, and another 12 million are covered by its Medicaid expansion. The GOP's drive to repeal the ACA in 2017 fell flat, and Democrats effectively blocked another try by gaining control of the House.

Casey Mulligan, chief economist for the White House council, said it turns out that the penalty for people going uninsured wasn't really essential for the Obama health law to function. The subsidies were more important.

"Removing the tax penalty and opening up more affordable options was able to save taxpayer dollars, give families more choice, without destabilizing the exchanges," he said.

The report didn't address constitutional arguments in a Texas court case against the ACA brought by red-state officials. But its economic analysis could have a bearing on that case.

The plaintiffs contend that the whole law was made unconstitutional by congressional repeal of the fines on the uninsured. A federal district court judge agreed, and that ruling is on appeal. The Justice Department has said in connection with the case that it will no longer defend the law's protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Now the White House report undercuts the notion that the tax penalties at issue in the case are central to the health law. Officials at the Council of Economic Advisers said they're not policymakers or lawyers, but economists.

The report also claims $450 billion in consumer benefits over the next 10 years based on broader availability of less costly insurance options, reduced taxpayer spending on subsidies, and the cancelled fines. But it acknowledges that premiums will go up for some middle- and upper-income consumers.

Kaiser Foundation analyst Levitt said $450 billion seems high to him.

First published on February 8, 2019

© 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

White House report claims Trump didn't sabotage Obamacare

The White House claims the Trump-era changes give families more options

updated 7M ago

Millionaire (and billionaire) taxes: An idea whose time has come?

Proposals to jack up taxes on the richest Americans are back on the political map, and still popular with the public

updated 3M ago

Idling engines do the devil's work – and they're often illegal

They not only burn fuel and spew emissions, when left unattended they're magnets for car thieves known as "puffers"

1H ago

Scott says "Cuban thugs" are at heart of Venezuela crisis

On "The Takeout" this week, Florida Sen. Rick Scott argues that Cuba is providing military support to defend Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro

1H ago

Customs officer shoots, kills driver at port of entry on U.S.-Mexico border

Authorities say truck apparently tried to run officer over; passenger arrested on Mexico side

1H ago

White House report claims Trump didn't sabotage Obamacare

The White House claims the Trump-era changes give families more options

updated 7M ago

Millionaire (and billionaire) taxes: An idea whose time has come?

Proposals to jack up taxes on the richest Americans are back on the political map, and still popular with the public

updated 3M ago

Scott says "Cuban thugs" are at heart of Venezuela crisis

On "The Takeout" this week, Florida Sen. Rick Scott argues that Cuba is providing military support to defend Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro

1H ago

Meghan McCain: I won't forget Trump's comments about my father

"I really want it made very clear that the Trumps had beef with me then and in the words of Cardi B, they're going to have beef with me forever," Meghan McCain told Stephen Colbert

4H ago

Jeff Bezos accuses National Enquirer of blackmail

Bezos published what appeared to be emails from American Media, Inc. in an extraordinary Medium post

updated 7M ago

Saudis accused of undermining Khashoggi probe amid secret trial

Kingdom quietly holds 2nd hearing for 11 facing charges over journalist's grisly killing, expert says, as she criticizes lack of transparency

updated 59M ago

Body recovered from plane wreckage is Argentine soccer player

Argentinian footballer Emiliano Sala and his pilot were in a small aircraft in January when it fell off radar over the English Channel

10H ago

Discovery of WWII-era bombs temporarily shuts down Rome airport

Italy's Defense Ministry said experts had to remove the three bombs, which weighed more than 300 pounds

13H ago

Global lawmakers try again to get Zuckerberg to testify

A Facebook vice president sat next to an empty chair reserved for CEO Mark Zuckerberg when the committee met in London last year

17H ago

Mexico presents plan to find thousands missing amid drug war

"Our territory has become a huge clandestine grave," government official says as he announces multi-million dollar investment

19H ago

2019 Grammys: How to stream online or watch on TV

Alicia Keys will host the 61st annual Grammy Awards from Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS

10H ago

Old photo shows Joy Behar dressed as "African woman"

During a 2016 segment on ABC's talk show, Behar displayed a 1970s-era photo of herself at a Halloween party

13H ago

Woody Allen sues Amazon over scuttled four-movie deal

The director is seeking $68 million from the tech giant, which refused to distribute Allen's latest film

16H ago

Download Oscar ballot for your office pool or party

Planning an Academy Award office pool, or an Oscar-watching party? Download our ballot of nominees (pdf)

17H ago

Cast of "My Best Friend's Wedding" reunites

Forever and ever, they'll stay in each other's hearts

18H ago

Global lawmakers try again to get Zuckerberg to testify

A Facebook vice president sat next to an empty chair reserved for CEO Mark Zuckerberg when the committee met in London last year

17H ago

NASA and SpaceX reset Crew Dragon test flight for March 2

The Crew Dragon and Starliner spacecraft are the centerpieces of NASA's drive to resume launching U.S. astronauts aboard U.S. rockets from U.S. soil

Feb 6

Earth could be headed for warmest period on record

The next five years could be even hotter than 2018, which was already near record territory

22H ago

Snap reports record revenues, but struggles to add users

Struggling social media company gets a badly needed boost in growth, while its losses narrowed

Feb 5

Dinosaur that used spiny back to defend itself found in Patagonia

The new species of dicraeosauridae, christened Bajadasaurus pronuspinax, was revealed in scientific journal Nature

Feb 5

Walgreens tops list for illegal cigarette sales to minors

FDA says the drugstore chain has racked up nearly 1,800 violations for selling tobacco products to children

14H ago

Ozzy Osbourne hospitalized after flu complications

"His doctors feel this is the best way to get him on a quicker road to recovery," tweeted his wife Sharon

Feb 6

Pet owners report dog deaths from recalled food

While one company is facing rash of unhappy consumers, it's one of at least 10 that distributed potentially toxic food

Feb 6

New moms hit especially hard by opioid crisis

Research shows new mothers with opioid use disorder are at a higher of overdose due to lack of resources, shame and stigma

20H ago

Dad travels to Canada for son's medicine that would cost $53K in U.S.

In his State of the Union address, President Trump said his next major priority is lowering the cost of health care and prescription drugs

Feb 6

Millionaire (and billionaire) taxes: An idea whose time has come?

Proposals to jack up taxes on the richest Americans are back on the political map, and still popular with the public

updated 3M ago

Idling engines do the devil's work – and they're often illegal

They not only burn fuel and spew emissions, when left unattended they're magnets for car thieves known as "puffers"

1H ago

Court OKs Eddie Lampert's bid to buy bankrupt Sears

Investor says his plan would keep more than 400 stores open and save tens of thousands of jobs

13H ago

Trump says U.S. has the world's "hottest" economy — he's way off

While other economies are stronger, America's is no slouch, but it is noticeably slower than just a few months ago

14H ago

Walgreens tops list for illegal cigarette sales to minors

FDA says the drugstore chain has racked up nearly 1,800 violations for selling tobacco products to children

14H ago

Customs officer shoots, kills driver at port of entry on U.S.-Mexico border

Authorities say truck apparently tried to run officer over; passenger arrested on Mexico side

1H ago

Muslim inmate executed after state denies request for imam present

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had stayed the execution over the religious arguments, but the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for it to proceed

3H ago

Body found stuffed in suitcase identified as missing woman

Her body was found in a large suitcase roughly 20 feet off a busy roadway

15H ago

Feds open inquiry into billionaire's sex abuse plea deal

Jeffrey Epstein reached a deal in 2008 to secretly end a federal sex abuse case involving at least 40 teenage girls

20H ago

Questions persist in county's third Taser-related death

Family members say they have seen "shocking" videos that contradict the police account of Chinedu Okobi's death

15H ago  Original Article