Editor's Note: This piece was authored by EASE Executive Director Tracey Schmitt Lintott.
If one is to believe the media, the last couple of weeks have rattled even the staunchest of President Trump’s supporters, raising questions as to whether he can turn the page and shore up enough support to secure a second term in the White House.
The conventional wisdom in Washington, D.C. is that President Trump missed an opportunity to a heal a bewildered and broken nation, reeling from a few months straight out of the Twilight Zone, and looking for leadership.
But presidential elections are not decided in June, and those who supported President Trump aren’t necessarily surprised. Voters didn’t “hire” him to be healer-in-chief. Instead they wanted an anti-establishment maverick unafraid of breaking glass in the name of getting things done.
Unfortunately for his campaign team, recent polling shows a softening of support amongst his critical base, which had been enthusiastic just a few months prior, undoubtedly buoyed by what seemed to be a Teflon economy and the fulfillment of a few key election promises.
An outlier that was near the top of their list? Repealing Obamacare. After a decade, the Affordable Care Act has proven to be anything but affordable to the more than 25 million who earn too much to qualify for subsidies but can’t afford the sky-high premiums.
The huge group left behind by Obamacare includes traditionally self-employed people such as truckers and realtors, plus millions of independent contractors in the booming “gig economy,” like ride share drivers, web/app developers, aspiring entrepreneurs, and people who simply value their independence. Many of these workers are self-employed, front-line workers of the pandemic who have put themselves at risk to keep America and its economy moving.
Compounding this situation are the more than twenty million Americans who have found themselves out of work and without health insurance because of the pandemic and subsequent economic turmoil.
Fortunately, a solution exists, currently used by more than 50,000 Americans and with the potential to provide a lifeline to millions more. “EASE” plans (ERISA Access for Everyone) enable individuals to obtain affordable coverage for themselves and their families and provide a much-needed solution for the fastest growing segment in America’s workforce. (“ERISA” is shorthand for the 1974 law that now regulates nearly all employer-sponsored health plans.) Individuals opt to join a data sharing partnership in which they receive a share of the profits, but more importantly access to affordable, flexible health coverage plans. Because ERISA is much more flexible and efficient than Obamacare, those costs range from about 20% on the low end (for basic preventative and wellness care), to about 75% on the high end (for comprehensive “major medical” plans) of Obamacare premiums.
Finding affordable alternatives to Obamacare is a top priority of the Trump administration. One of the President’s central campaign promises in 2016 was to allow for the sale of health insurance across state lines. As of now, EASE is the only option for successfully doing that. The promise was also codified in the 2016 Republican Platform. Last week, the Republican National Committee moved to adopt the unchanged platform for 2020.
In short, the administration’s support of this innovative approach seems like a no-brainer. Unfortunately, bureaucrats within the Department of Labor (DOL) dragged their feet on a formal request for an Advisory Opinion, and ignored a letter of support from seven state attorneys general. As a result a lawsuit was filed and with their backs against the wall, those DOL bureaucrats issued a defensive and deeply flawed Advisory Opinion in an attempt to preserve the status quo of Obamacare.
The government bureaucrats do not support the president’s health care agenda and are hell-bent on protecting Obamacare. Their actions jeopardize coverage for the 50,000 Americans with EASE plans and the millions who could join in the future.
Judge Reed O’Connor, of the U.S. District Court in Texas, will soon decide whether DOL or the many experienced ERISA lawyers supporting EASE are correct on some highly technical points of law. It’s unconscionable given the current circumstances, that DOL has not reconsidered its callous and irresponsible advisory opinion.
And it is head scratching that a judge has to decide this issue at all. There is absolutely no valid reason why anyone who wants to see President Trump’s health care agenda fulfilled – and a GOP victory in November – would oppose EASE.
What is clear is more than 50,000 EASE plan participants, many of whom are Trump supporters, could lose their coverage should DOL prevail. Raymond Jessup, a pastor from Arizona and EASE plan holder, said, “I’m a Republican who voted for Donald Trump, I believe he is being badly served by bureaucrats who are trying to take away my EASE health insurance policy.”
As Executive Director of the EASE Alliance, I represent more than 50,000 Americans whose peace of mind may be taken away because bureaucrats refuse to look past the status quo and embrace sound, smart policy. But as former Republican National Committee (RNC) Press Secretary, who worked on three presidential campaigns, my gut tells me, re-visiting DOL’s policy towards EASE plans may provide a political win for this White House, when they need one most.