There's a funny myth in movie fan culture: Stormtroopers are poor shots. Despite plenty of easy opportunities to hit Luke Skywalker and his allies, the embarrassingly incompetent Empire troops consistently miss. Instead, they spray the target hoping one of their many shots finds an enemy. Once in a while, a shot finds its mark.
I was thinking of this comparison as I watched President Trump try, and fail, on multiple accounts to erode the foundation of the Affordable Care Act. Despite months of work and two very visible failures in Congress. What Trump hasn't achieved through legislation, he is now trying to do by executive orders. Here, unfortunately for backers of the ACA, is where we see the Stormtrooper hitting his mark.
Over the past three weeks, Trump has used his executive authority to end critical payments to insurers that allow low-income and vulnerable Americans to afford health care coverage. Trump has cut 90 percent of the advertising and education budget in advance of the November 1 open enrollment period – the time of year when people sign up for health care benefits on the open marketplace created by the ACA. By also shrinking the enrollment period, Trump hopes fewer will sign up, reaffirming his narrative that Obamacare is failing across the nation.
Thankfully in Oregon, the leadership at the Department of Consumer & Business Services anticipated this move and took immediate action to supplement public awareness with $1.8 million in ad buys around the state. However, it's only a matter of time before Trump pursues yet another shot at derailing the ACA, and we cannot expect state and health care leaders to bail out Oregon every time he strikes.
Trump has many additional tools at his disposal that should frighten Oregonians who value our 95 percent coverage rate and who appreciate the importance of improving access to vulnerable populations – those more likely to forego primary care and end up in the emergency room, costing the state and Oregonians more in the long term.
Trump could continue to erode enrollment assistance programs and funding across the country, putting barriers between individuals and their health care. The federal Department of Health and Human Services could give states the ability to limit enrollment – including who is covered in a state's ACA expansion – by requiring proof of employment or increasing cost-sharing requirements. Finally, he could put all of his effort behind urging Congress to remove the individual mandate, effectively gutting a key component of the ACA that is providing some semblance of stability for insurers to remain in marketplaces across the country.
I wish Trump was as poor of a shot as an Imperial Stormtrooper, but recently he's been finding his target way too often. Where's Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia when we need them most?
Dale Penn II, senior public affairs associate, has been deeply involved in government relations and regulatory affairs in Oregon for 10 years. During his work for the 2005 Senate Judiciary Committee, Dale began developing close relationships with key legislators and agency staff across party lines and issue fields.