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The Hole in the Safety Net Widens: Trump's Plan to Dismantle Obamacare

By Michael Corcoran
Truthout, Dec. 22, 2016

Donald Trump's stunning victory must've been especially joyous news for billionaire hedge-fund manager Daniel Loeb. The former Romney supporter jumped on the Trump bandwagon early, and seemingly with great confidence. During the summer of 2016 his hedge-fund portfolio Third Point bought 1.4 million shares of Humana, one of the nation's five biggest private health insurers, and the 73rd largest company in America. When Trump was elected, the company's stock soared. Within a week of election night, they were up 10 percent. This pace didn't slow. On November 7, the company closed at $174 a share; by the beginning of December it was up to $217.

Loeb is hardly the only billionaire getting richer off Trump's election and off the president-elect's plan to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act -- an impactful, if insufficient law that cut the number of uninsured Americans from about 17 percent to 12 percent and will forever be attached to the Obama legacy. But these soaring health industry stock prices are a sure sign that major change to health policy is indeed coming. This may be good news for billionaire investors and the private insurance industry, which, as The Wall Street Journal reports, is arming itself to the teeth for "a full-court lobbying press." It is, however, frightening for many Americans who depend on the law for access to health care. "I wish that I could be more reassuring to my patients during a highly stressful political transition, but in truth, they have reason to worry," wrote one doctor in a sobering New York Times op-ed.

But while Republicans have been screaming to "repeal and replace" Obamacare for years, what this process will truly look like is not entirely clear. To date, most GOP proposals have been short on details. However, now the GOP will try to turn platitudes into policy. This raises many questions. What will Trump's efforts to dismantle Obamacare mean for the millions who have come to depend on the ACA for access to health care? And what -- if anything -- will "replace" the law?

In addition to the immediate health repercussions for individuals, a post-Obamacare world will also have major implications for progressive politics. Will advocates for bolder health reforms now step back and simply push to reinstate ACA-like policies? It doesn't look like it. Single-payer activists, emboldened by Bernie Sanders' efforts to bring Medicare for All into the national discussion, are fighting to put a truly universal national public health plan back on the progressive agenda. The battle for health care justice -- and social democracy more broadly -- looks to be as active as ever in the coming years.

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