Trump Critics Admit Success of Association Health Plans

Despite early warnings that deregulation would lead to disaster, the truth is the opposite.

Louis DeBroux · Feb. 6, 2019

It seems at every turn, President Donald Trump’s shrillest critics are being forced to eat crow. He was widely mocked during his campaign in 2016, with virtually every pundit declaring he had almost no chance of beating Hillary Clinton … until he did. Critics claimed GOP tax reform would damage the economy; instead, it unleashed massive economic growth and job creation. They said taking a bombastic, hardline stance with North Korean tyrant and Chinese puppet Kim Jong-un would lead to nuclear war; instead, it brought the diminutive dictator to the negotiating table.

And this past summer, when President Trump rolled out new rules allowing individuals, the self-employed, and small businesses to band together and purchase health insurance across state lines, in what he called “association health plans” (AHPs), his critics again scoffed and attacked.

In reality, The Wall Street Journal described the concept for AHPs as proposed by the Health Policy Consensus Group, a conservative coalition of policy experts that included The Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, Galen Institute and the Manhattan Institute. The idea was to “drive control of health care almost entirely to the states, reversing [ObamaCare’s] federal mandates that seek to provide basic minimum benefits and consumer protections, which Republicans argue limit people’s choice. … Under the conservative plan, states would receive ACA money in the form of block grants to help low-income consumers buy coverage. Health savings accounts, which let people set aside tax-free money for medical expenses, would be expanded. Insurers could give discounts to people who are young or maintain continuous coverage.”

Democrats mocked the plans as “junk insurance,” and one Leftmedia outlet called it a “flop.”

Andy Slavitt, the man responsible for implementing ObamaCare, was blunt in his denunciation, declaring, “Association health plans are not the solution to any problem Americans have. They won’t make drugs more affordable, they won’t help Americans get health care they need. … When [association health plan members] finally do get sick, they find out what isn’t covered at exactly the wrong time and [then] coverage is more expensive and unavailable. … That’s why 95% of doctors, patient groups, and insurers say it’s a bad idea.”

So … what kind of wine goes best with crow?

As it turns out, the association health plans have been so successful that even the Trump-hating Washington Post conceded this Trump victory.

The Post’s assistant editor, Robert Gebelhoff, wrote, “It’s time to acknowledge that critics may have misjudged one of the Trump administration’s signature health-care policies — ‘bigly.’ … New reports suggest that much of that fear might be overblown — at least for the time being. As The Washington Post’s health policy guru Paige Winfield Cunningham laid out this week, more than two dozen association health plans have been developed since the administration issued its new rule, and so far they don’t look nearly as skimpy as experts predicted.”

You don’t say!

Cunningham elaborates on the “shocking” success, noting, “Chambers of commerce and trade associations have launched more than two dozen of these ‘association health plans’ in 13 states in the seven months since the Labor Department finalized new rules. … And there are initial signs the plans are offering generous benefits and premiums lower than can be found in the Obamacare marketplaces.”

Cunningham continues, “When it comes to these new association health plans, they appear — at least so far — to offer benefits comparable to most workplace plans and haven’t tried to discriminate against patients with preexisting conditions.” She also notes that Land O'Lakes, a farm cooperative that participated in the AHPs, serving farmers in Nebraska and Minnesota, reports savings of 25-35% over plans in the ObamaCare ACA marketplace.

Gebelhoff also reported the findings of the Congressional Budget Office, which predicts significant health coverage gains due to the AHPs, so much so that “an estimated 5 million people will enroll in either a short-term plan or an association health plan every year over the next decade, including more than 1 million people annually who were previously uninsured.”

Gebelhoff concluded by admitting, “So far, it seems these plans could work exactly as his administration promised: By helping offer coverage options for middle-income families who are making too much to qualify for federal ACA subsidies but are still struggling to afford premiums.”

The bane of conservative policies is that they sound harsh or uncompassionate, but the benefit is that they promote freedom and expand prosperity.

“Progressive” policies have the opposite problem. While sounding idealistic and compassionate in theory, in practice they crush the individual under the power of an unmerciful state while spreading poverty and misery to all but those holding the reins of power. To any who doubt that, read up on stories of people eating rats and dogs to keep from starving in the socialist utopia of Venezuela.

With the wonderful success of association health plans, hopefully Americans will reject the leftist propaganda they’ve been fed and allow the free market to bring these same types of successes to education and Social Security.

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