White House touts ACA’s demise as insurers seek help in stabilizing its marketplace – The Denver Post

The event Wednesday on an airport tarmac in Cincinnati was just the latest opportunity for the White House to disparage and undercut a law it officially must carry out.

Standing in front of Air Force One along with two small-business owners, President Donald Trump recounted how they “have had their lives completely upended by the disaster known as Obamacare.”

One saw her choice of doctors shrink while her premiums and out-of-pocket costs rose, he said. The other has curtailed new investments in his 11-person company to maintain employees’ health benefits.

“The coverage is horrendous,” the president declared, ticking off insurers’ recent decisions to pull out of federal marketplaces in Ohio, Kentucky and elsewhere. “Obamacare is in a total death spiral. The problems will only get worse if Congress fails to act.”

Both the gathering and Trump’s remarks represent officials’ strategy to convince Americans that the collapse of the Affordable Care Act is inevitable and to bolster public and congressional support for a GOP overhaul. Since the day he was inaugurated, Trump has taken steps to erode the ACA, from instructing his deputies to ease up on ACA regulations to curtailing consumer outreach during the final days of 2017 health plan enrollment.

“The best thing politically is to let Obamacare explode,” he told The Washington Post in March. On Wednesday, he declared it “dead.”

But behind the scenes, the increasing fragility of the law’s insurance marketplaces has created an increasingly difficult dilemma for the president’s top advisers.

The issue is whether to take any steps to allay the concerns of skittish insurers, some of which are either hiking up rates or pulling out altogether, or let things deteriorate even further – even at the risk of being blamed. The advisers are split, according to several individuals briefed on the deliberations: Vice President Pence and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney have argued against intervention, while Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price backs providing some federal support if a conservative health-care bill fails to pass this summer.

For the moment, the administration has defaulted to a position of doing little to try to soothe the health insurance industry even as many insurers warn that federal actions -or inaction- could aggravate the situation. Some suggest the White House’s relentless naysaying is not reflecting marketplace problems as much as driving them.

“We’re in this very strange situation where the agency in charge of stewarding the law is very openly working to undermine that law,” said Caitlin Morris, director of affordability initiatives at Families USA, a pro-ACA consumer group.

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