- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A grass-roots alliance launched a campaign Tuesday to highlight and resist President Trump’s attempts to weaken Obamacare, hoping to pin blame on the White House for stumbles in the markets before 2018 enrollment begins next month.

Democrats swiftly aligned themselves with the campaign, which unveiled a website, StandUpToSabotage.com, and released a report that says 20 of the 28 states that have finalized their 2018 premiums attributed at least some of their rate hikes to Mr. Trump’s actions.

“President Trump has made it clear he will do everything he can to sabotage our health care. The president’s repeated and blatant acts of sabotage are deliberately undermining the law, and will destroy the health and financial security of millions of people,” said Leslie Dach, chairman of Protect Our Care, which led resistance to GOP repeal efforts.

Frustrated by Congress‘ failure to dispose of the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Trump recently announced he could no longer legally make critical payments to insurers who pick up low-income customers’ costs in the law’s insurance markets.

Republican lawmakers specifically zeroed out money for the “cost-sharing reductions,” but President Obama made the payments anyway, leading to a court judgment against him. Mr. Trump made the payments for months amid an appeal of that ruling, but on Thursday said the Justice Department advised him to cease the payments.

Congress is free to appropriate the money if it chooses, but conservatives are leery of casting votes to prop up the 2010 law.

Democrats fumed over Mr. Trump’s decision, pointing to insurers who requested higher premiums to make themselves whole, since they’re required to pick up costs even if they are not reimbursed by the government.

The new campaign said it will hold 17 public events in eight states across the country this week to decry Mr. Trump’s actions.

“It is high time Republicans in Congress stand up to this sabotage and they should start by immediately restoring funding for CSRs and open enrollment,” Mr. Dach said. “We are launching this campaign and taking our message all across the country because sabotaging our health care out of spite is wrong and must be stopped.”

Bipartisan leaders of the Senate Health Committee are trying to strike a deal that shores up the Obamacare markets for the next two rounds of enrollment. Signups for 2018 begin Nov. 1.

Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander has acceded to Democratic demands for two years of cost-sharing payments. Yet Democrats are leery of GOP demands for state flexibility in return, fearing governors will water down Obamacare’s slate of required benefits or provisions that prohibit insurers from charging sick Americans higher prices.

Though in the minority, Democrats are emboldened by their victories over repeal and polls that suggest Americans are warming to Obamacare and want Mr. Trump and Congress to improve the law, not end it.

Mr. Trump has toggled between claiming Obamacare is “dead” and cheering on bipartisan efforts to reel in the chaos. He says Democrats are ultimately to blame, however, for muscling the wobbly program through Congress seven years ago.

The program fell short of enrollment targets in early rounds, leading to a sicker-than-expected customer base that forced insurers to raise rates or exit altogether.

“I do believe we’ll have a short-term fix because I think the Democrats will be blamed for the mess. This is an Obamacare mess,” Mr. Trump said during a Cabinet meeting Monday. “When the premiums go up, that has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that we had poor health care — delivered poorly, written poorly, approved by the Democrats.”

He predicted that Congress would pass a “long-term fix” — meaning repeal and replace — on GOP votes alone by March or April.

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