Trump's Son-In-Law Is Shaping Health Care Policy, And The Fate Of His Brother’s Obamacare App

Josh Kushner's Oscar company sells insurance through the Affordable Care Act.
President Donald Trump and his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, at a meeting with manufacturing CEOs on Feb. 23.
President Donald Trump and his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, at a meeting with manufacturing CEOs on Feb. 23.

Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in law and senior adviser, is squeamish about repealing Obamacare, The Washington Post reported earlier this week.

Kushner, along with Trump’s economic adviser Gary Cohn, strategist Steve Bannon and policy adviser Stephen Miller, “have emphasized the potential political costs to moving aggressively,” the Post’s Juliet Eilperin and Amy Goldstein write, while another group of White House advisers is eager to make big changes to the health care industry.

For Kushner, the cost of following through on his father-in-law’s repeated and unambiguous promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is more personal than for other aides to the president.

No, affordable care for a life-threatening illness afflicting a family member is not on the line, as it is for many Americans. Instead, it’s a family member’s business. 

Kushner’s brother, Josh, co-founded Oscar, an insurance company that is valued at $2.7 billion. That would be an obvious appearance of a conflict of interest, at the very least, and the potential for a conflict is even greater because Oscar was started for the express purpose of making money on the state exchanges for individual insurance that were created as part of the Affordable Care Act.

Oscar, a website and app, sells insurance directly to individuals who aren’t already eligible for insurance through their employer or a government program. Under the ACA, individuals who aren’t already covered are required to buy insurance or pay a penalty under what is called the individual mandate. And the federal government may partially subsidize the plans that the Oscar app sells and manages. Precisely how big that subsidy is depends on the type of plan and the buyer’s income and, eventually, on the health care law that the Trump administration passes ― or fails to pass.

Oscar did not respond to requests for comment.

In response to specific questions about Jared Kushner’s involvement in crafting Trump’s health care policy, a White House spokesperson would say only that “several White House staffers are working feverishly and productively with the House and Senate every day to work through the issues to create a better health care system for all Americans.”

The conflict-of-interest rules that govern federal workers prohibit executive branch employees from making decisions that affect their immediate family’s finances. But as Jared’s brother, Josh Kushner’s business falls just outside the scope of those conflict-of-interest laws for federal employees. Nevertheless, “there might be some question of whether it is appropriate to weigh in on decisions that have an enormous impact on [his] brother’s assets,” Richard Painter, a University of Minnesota law professor who was the chief ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush and who endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, told The Huffington Post in November. 

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