Obamacare rollbacks a political weapon in Georgia

Hours before U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray announced a bipartisan deal on health care subsidies, in Atlanta the state’s Legislative Black Caucus held a press conference on just that issue.

The gathering of legislators, who assembled to lambaste President Donald Trump’s announcement late Thursday that he was canceling key Obamacare subsidies, underscores just how potent a weapon the rollbacks in the federal health care law were shaping up to be.

“We’re appalled,” said the caucus chairman, state Sen. Lester Jackson, D-Savannah.

Polls show significant majorities of Americans and Georgians want Obamacare fixed, not undone. And Democratic strategists seem to be banking on that sentiment. The issue even brought out the touchiness between Georgia Democrats.

Jackson, asked why the Black Caucus was hosting the health care press conference, responded by asking why the Democratic Party’s caucus wasn’t hosting the press conference.

Jackson and his colleagues also said their caucus was built to advocate for Georgians, and Trump’s actions would cost thousands of Georgians their health insurance and dump unpaid medical bills on hospitals.

Undoing Obamacare is a potent issue across the country. In Washington, after the deal broke, U.S. Senate Democrats held their own press conference. They did address the deal, but they also announced the rollout of a new website built around what they called Trump’s “Sabotage” of the Affordable Care Act.

Not everyone agrees, of course. Free-market activists at the organization Heritage Action suggested that the senators’ agreement was the wrong solution.

Regulations, not lack of money, is what made the Obamacare market unstable, said its spokesman, Dan Holler. “‘Short-term’ suggests there is no meaningful reform on regulatory burdens crushing the individual and small group markets,” Holler tweeted about the deal, which apparently runs only for two years.

After the deal was struck, Georgia House Democratic leader Bob Trammell of Luthersville dismissed any tensions within the party, and he said Trump doesn’t get a pass if the deal succeeds.

“I wouldn’t call that a victory for Trump,” Trammell said. “It’s irresponsible to try to break something, then try to claim credit for someone else coming in to try to fix your mistake.”

Trump seemed to give the deal a thumbs up in comments Tuesday, but it still must pass the full House and Senate to succeed. If it does, it still leaves several other actions in place that are likely to chip away at Obamacare enrollment, including a shorter enrollment period and less guidance for enrollees. Open enrollment on the insurance exchange begins Nov. 1.

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