Obamacare Vulnerable

Photograph Source: Pete Souza – Public Domain

And now something else wicked this way comes in the midst of a pandemic that has killed upwards of 125,000 Americans: Donald Trump and his cohort of loyal Republicans has asked the Supreme Court to terminate the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

Trump and his allies have spat in the face of all those who have signed up for Obamacare and those who are considering applying for it merely four months before voters go to the polls.

There’s something new and unexpected nearly every day with this mercurial, vindictive president, and it usually portends something bad. It’s exhausting. He’s apparently determined to do everything he can to undo what President Barack Obama accomplished, perhaps concerned this may be his last chance.

Republicans have tried to get rid of the decade-old Obamacare many times because they just won’t let go of their ideological determination to get government out of people’s lives, regardless of the cost. Their timing now, with a surge in coronavirus cases, raises questions of how much more despicable can they get.

Elimination of Obamacare would mean 23 million Americans would lose their health insurance, says the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington policy organization. Thousands of people switched to Obamacare in the past few months because of their loss of insurance as a result of being dismissed or furloughed from their jobs due to COVID-19, which is caused by the virus. Trump and his Republicans went about as low as they can go by striking when people are down, their lives at risk.

It’s not enough that Americans have been dealing with a deadly disease that has meant job and income losses for millions of people; widespread lockdowns that have closed schools, precipitating concerns that many children, chiefly in low income areas, are not learning properly and may be stuck with online classes again in the fall; and getting involved as never before in a fight for police reform and justice for African Americans.

“President Trump and the Republicans’ campaign to rip away the protections and benefits of the Affordable Care Act is an act of unfathomable cruelty,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said in a statement.

Consider cruelty: Merriam-Webster defines it as someone “disposed to inflict pain or suffering: devoid of human feelings.” Sounds like someone we all know.

It’s worth noting that cruelty was a player in Trump’s “The Apprentice” TV reality show because the upshot of the game was someone getting fired, which is a sad ending for the one getting tossed. Getting fired is a last resort any employer with a sense of decency would want to inflict on an employee. But it’s easy to see, watching Trump in real life for nearly four years and witnessing all of the people he has dismissed, how he must delight in saying “You’re fired.”

It may happen to him come November 3.

The first sign of his meanness surfaced early in his presidency when the bully in him stood at a lectern and mocked the heartrending physical disability of a handicapped New York Times reporter. Most people would flinch inwardly in empathy for the newsman.

The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to overturn the ACA near midnight Thursday when most everyone east of the Mississippi was asleep or in bed watching late night TV comedy shows or reading. They didn’t wake in the morning to good news.

Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco asked the Supreme Court to strike down the ACA because the individual mandate became unconstitutional when it was deleted from the law in 2017. Therefore, he argued, the entire law is invalid, The Washington Post reported.

What it means, in the Republican view, is that protection in the law for those with preexisting conditions also should be invalidated.

The court probably won’t consider the case until the fall term, when COVID-19 still will be around, if the current huge spikes in incidents of the disease are any guide.

Should the court side with the Republicans and eliminate the ACA, the GOP does not have an alternative with which to replace it. If Democrats win the White House in November, it will be up to them to enact a new health insurance law next year. But they would have to capture the Senate as well as retain the House.

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.