Trump’s true plan to “drain the swamp” has now become clear: Make the “forgotten men and women” of this nation drink swamp water until they choke.
Hurricane victims in Puerto Rico are getting sick and dying from drinking polluted water. And now, Trump’s lone wolf attack on health insurance markets will now make health care unaffordable to millions of the working-class men and women he courted as a candidate.
Puerto Rico’s Plight
With a population of 3.5 million American citizens, 35 percent of the Puerto Rico is still without safe drinking water more than three weeks after Hurricane Maria.
In order not to die of dehydration, Puerto Ricans are literally drinking swamp water – that is, water from wild rivers and streams polluted with deadly bacteria – causing more Puerto Ricans to get sick every day.
Even more shocking, Puerto Ricans are being distributed drinking water from the Dorado Groundwater Contamination Site, which was listed as a hazardous waste site by the Federal Superfund program.
The Environmental Protection Agency says the site contains industrial chemicals, including tetrachlorethylene and trichloroethylene, “which can have serious health impacts including damage to the liver and increasing the risk of cancer.” Drink up, you forgotten men and women.
Does Trump include Puerto Ricans who are, of course, American citizens but live in one of the poorest regions of the country, among the “forgotten men and women” whom he falsely promises to help?
Or because Spanish is their first language and many have darker skins than Caucasians, are they not even worth remembering to Trump? Do they deserve second-class treatment to Texans and Floridians when it comes to hurricane relief?
Now Truly Forgotten
What about the forgotten men and women of say, West Virginia, which gave Trump a 40 percent margin over Hillary Clinton in November? The percentage of working-class whites in West Virginia without health insurance dropped 60 percent after Obamacare. Many of them can kiss their health care goodbye if Trump’s nuclear attack on insurance markets succeeds.
And a nuclear attack on the health care system is exactly what Trump’s executive orders amounted to. They threaten to destroy insurance markets, causing millions to lose their health care.
First, Trump unilaterally decreed that the federal government will withhold cost-sharing subsidies that lower co-payments and deductibles for low-income Americans. This will take money out of the pockets of many “forgotten Americans” who get their insurance from ACA exchanges, making health care unaffordable to them.
Then Trump decreed that he will allow the sale of “junk” policies with high deductibles and co-payments, restrictions on pre-existing conditions, limits on covering serious conditions like cancer, and with little or no state regulation.
Because they cover so little, these policies may be inexpensive, but they won’t be there when people actually get sick.
Keep in mind that before the ACA’s insurance requirements, a majority of people who were forced to declare bankruptcy because of medical costs actually had insurance.
It’s like allowing auto makers to sell cars without seat belts, air bags, headlights, or brakes. They might be temptingly cheap, but they’d be unlikely to get you where you’re going safely.
Give Me Your Young and Healthy
The outcome of Trump’s executive orders will likely be that many young, healthy people opt for “junk” plans, leaving older and sicker Americans to pay for insurance plans which adhere to the ACA’s requirements of providing minimum benefits, removing lifetime caps, and insuring everyone regardless of “pre-existing conditions.”
The result would be that many of the insurance plans on the exchanges would collapse, or set their premiums so high that few could afford them.
As Catherine Rampell wrote in The Washington Post:
“I don’t remember [Trump] promising stadiums of cheering fans that he’d take away protections for pre-existing conditions, increase deductibles, spike premiums, eliminate basic coverage requirements, and more generally destabilize the individual health-insurance market. But that is what he said he’d do on Thursday, when he signed an executive order on health care.”
Time To Wake Up
If anything good can come of these petulant and horrific actions by Trump, perhaps many of the “forgotten men and women” who voted for him will finally realize he’s only out for himself and his billionaire swamp buddies and that all he offers voters is poisoned swamp water.
Finally, then, maybe the cowardly Congressional Republicans who would sell the nation out to foreign adversaries for a tax cut for their wealthy donors will finally find an ounce of moral courage and remove this dangerous monster, who threatens the future of America and the planet, from the office for which he is so manifestly unfit.
Vote, Puerto Rico!
There’s one potential silver lining to the devastating Puerto Rican crisis: Although Puerto Ricans are American citizens, those who reside in Puerto Rico can’t vote in presidential and congressional elections. But those who reside in one of the 50 states can.
Other than New York, many of the largest concentrations of Puerto Ricans on the mainland are in the swing states of Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia.
If Trump’s neglect causes large numbers of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million people to flee to the mainland, they can immediately vote for president and Congress. Progressives should work with Puerto Rican community organizations to be sure that every one of them registers to vote right away.
There would be something sweetly ironic if Puerto Rican migrants to the mainland provided the margin of victory in 2018 and 2020 to take the Presidency and the majority of Congress away from Trump and his sycophantic allies.
Then the Donald can retire to Mar-a-Lago and drink his own swamp water from the streams next to his golf course.