Juan Williams: Trump's cynical sabotage of ObamaCare

Editor's note: This originally appeared in The Hill.

“If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”

For years, Republicans used that exaggerated pledge to thrash the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and President Obama for not keeping his promise. Politifact labeled it as “lie of the year” in 2013.

Politifact will have a lot of lies to choose from this year, given the hurricane of falsehoods and broken promises on health care made by President Trump.

Who can forget Trump’s oft-repeated promise that “We will repeal and replace ObamaCare, and we will do it very, very quickly?”

ObamaCare has not been repealed. It has not been replaced. Apparently in Trump-speak, “very, very quickly” means sometime during his tenure in office — or more likely, never.

Trump says he wants to “let ObamaCare implode.” This is far worse than a mountain of lies. This is subversion of an American law by the president.

After all, Republicans had seven years to come up with a plan that they promised would provide insurance to more people, more cheaply and with better protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Here is another broken Trump promise: “We’re going to have insurance for everybody. We’re going to have a health care that is far less expensive and far better.” 

Well, we are still waiting.

The Republican House can say they passed a plan, but it was inferior to ObamaCare. It left more Americans uninsured — 20 million more, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) — and pressed lower quality care on those who kept coverage.

But lacking a plan of his own, Trump initially endorsed the House plan and held a Rose Garden press conference to celebrate it as “incredibly well-crafted.”

Within a few weeks, the president admitted the bill was “mean” to people in need of health care.

Now Trump continues to attack ObamaCare — with no realistic plan to replace it.

Steve Bannon, the president’s former chief strategist, told the conservative Values Voter Summit recently that the president is taking action to “blow up those exchanges.”

Trump says he wants to “let ObamaCare implode.”

This is far worse than a mountain of lies. This is subversion of an American law by the president.

Gallup reported Friday that 3.5 million fewer people reported having health insurance through the first nine months of this year as Trump’s threats and GOP congressional inaction provoked widespread uncertainty.

In Pennsylvania, insurance premiums on track for a 7.6 percent hike next year will instead be going up 30 percent thanks to Trump destabilizing the marketplace by ending subsidies to cover insurance for the poor.

The CBO estimates the cost of ending the subsidies will add $6 billion to the deficit in 2018 alone.

The administration attack on health care also includes cutting the ObamaCare enrollment period in half and cutting the advertising budget by 90 percent. And they are cutting money for the Navigator system to help people enroll.

This means fewer healthy people will sign up to balance out enrollment by people with medical needs — a dynamic that will further destabilize the system.

To the extent that the ACA currently has problems, it is the direct result of sabotage by Republican politicians.

Never forget that it was Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio who authored a measure to drain money from “risk corridors” created to protect insurance companies. 

The original sin was when GOP governors and state legislatures refused to expand Medicaid, blocking 4 million poor Americans from benefitting from the ACA.

“I would ask what’s conservative about unaffordable premiums,” asked Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. “What’s conservative about creating chaos so millions can’t buy health insurance?”

And the American people want ObamaCare in its current form to work.

A poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation taken earlier this month found that a whopping 71 percent of Americans said the Trump administration should “do what they can to make the current health care law work.”

The same KFF poll found that 51 percent of Americans still have a favorable view of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and 40 percent have an unfavorable view.

Why is Trump defying the overwhelming majority of Americans who want the law to succeed?

Last week, Alexander, the chairman of the Senate Health Committee, and the ranking member, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., unveiled a bipartisan compromise bill to shore up a key ObamaCare subsidy to benefit low-income Americans for two years.

The bill came in reaction to President Trump’s threats to end these cost sharing reductions (CSRs).

Trump falsely claimed that these were “bailouts” to insurance companies, when they are help for poor people.

“The fact of the matter is the president is trying to sabotage the American health care system, trying to put a gun to the head of our constituents by taking away their health care or raising their costs in order to force us to repeal a bill the American public doesn’t want us to repeal,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., told Fox News Sunday recently.

The real problem here is that while Trump is playing politics he is treating people in need of health care as collateral damage, a cruel afterthought.

There is one true statement from Trump on ObamaCare that will stand the test of time.

“Now, I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject,” he said in February. “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”

You think? 

Juan Williams currently serves as a co-host of FOX News Channel's (FNC) "The Five" (weekdays, 5-6PM/ET) and also appears as a political analyst on "FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace" and "Special Report with Bret Baier."