Trump officials congratulate selves for uninsured kids | Editorial

Posted Nov 03, 2019

President Trump promised “phenomenal health care” and “insurance for everybody,” but what we have today, despite the strong economy, are more kids without coverage.

And as when he abandoned our Kurdish allies to slaughter in Syria, “a big success,” or called his response to the hurricane that killed 3,000 in Puerto Rico “one of the best jobs that's ever been done,” you could show a little appreciation.

This is all because of the improving economy, is the message from his top officials. People got jobs and insurance through their employers, so their families are dropping off the rolls of insurance programs for the poor, like Medicaid.

Except for this inconvenient fact: If enrollment in Medicaid were down because people got jobs with benefits, then the rate of the uninsured wouldn’t change. And it most definitely did.

We are seeing the first increase in the uninsured rate since the Affordable Care Act went into effect. The number of Americans without health insurance ballooned by nearly 2 million under Trump, to 27.5 million. And the number of kids without insurance increased by more than 400,000, to 4 million.

It prompted Democrats in Congress to send a letter to Trump’s health care chief, Alex Azar, questioning why the administration has “applauded the enrollment declines among children.”

There’s no denying who is responsible: Trump’s repeated sabotage of the health law is driving up the cost of insurance and driving down enrollment, across the board. He expanded junk insurance plans, shrunk the sign-up period and killed the requirement that everyone get real insurance, which hiked premiums on those who do.

And his relentless targeting of immigrants – even those here legally – had the predictable chilling effect. Families fear applying for Medicaid, thanks to his proposal that punishes legal immigrants who use public programs. It would count against them when they seek green cards or citizenship.

The uninsured rate rose for Latinos more than other group, nationally. No big surprise. And in our state, Ray Castro, an analyst with New Jersey Policy Perspective, found a similar trend for kids.

About 2,600 more Latino and Asian kids in New Jersey have no insurance under Trump, a significant drop in coverage that we didn’t see for black or white children.

This will be a challenge for the Murphy administration, when it takes over our insurance marketplace. How can we improve outreach, and help immigrants decide if it’s worth the risk to enroll?

Granted, our state also has some improving to do. New Jersey has its own unnecessary barriers to insuring children, Castro argues, like high premiums for its programs for the poor, a 90-day waiting period, and so on. Sen. Joseph Vitale is working on a bill to fix this.

But our state has done well in countering the worst effects of Trump’s sabotage, with progressive policies like our own mandate to buy insurance. And unlike Trump, we aren’t taking a victory lap – or pushing a lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act altogether, leaving millions without insurance.

If the law is killed, it would be catastrophic. Half a million people would lose their health insurance in New Jersey alone, including about 90,000 kids. Young people would be stripped of access to drug treatment, in the middle of an opioid crisis.

Thousands would literally die. And once again, be sure to give Trump credit.

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