PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Gina Raimondo on Tuesday led a Democratic attack against President Trump’s newest attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act, accusing the White House of “reckless and inhumane” policies on health care.
“I want to be crystal clear: the Affordable Care Act is working in the state of Rhode Island,” Raimondo told reporters during a conference call. Her remarks came one day after Trump administration lawyers ignited a new furor over the issue by urging a judge to throw out the health law entirely.
“We felt it was important and urgent to … really highlight how important the Affordable Care Act is for the people in our states, and how really reckless and inhumane the most recent action of the Trump administration is,” she said.
Raimondo noted that roughly 100,000 Rhode Islanders are insured under the law, with about 70,000 covered by its Medicaid expansion and roughly 30,000 buying plans through HealthSource RI, which provides federally funded subsidies for most consumers. She also pointed to data showing 96% of state residents are now insured.
The most pressing concern for the governors if the law is eliminated would be the disappearance of Medicaid funds and insurance subsidies, which Raimondo said in recent years has amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars for Rhode Island alone. She said it would be “an extreme challenge, if not impossible” to cover that with state funds, “and frankly, we shouldn’t have to.”
The call was organized by the Democratic Governors Association, which Raimondo currently chairs, and also included the leaders of Nevada, Minnesota, Oregon and New Mexico. It’s part of a broader effort by Democrats to keep Republicans on the defensive over health care, an issue analysts say gave the party a major boost in the 2018 election.
“Last year we were all on the ballot, and we all spent time talking to tens of thousands of people, millions of people, in our states,” Raimondo said. “And we heard resoundingly, over and over again … from Rhode Islanders and Americans everywhere, we need our health care. We rely on the Affordable Care Act for our health care. Please protect us. And we were all elected because we said we would protect them.”
R.I. Republican Party Chairman Brandon Bell did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Trump administration’s move.
Raimondo’s 2019-20 budget includes multiple proposals she argues will increase the stability of the local health insurance market amid uncertainty at the federal level. Those include creating a state-level penalty on individuals who don’t buy coverage, which Congress has repealed at the federal level, and creating a new state-run reinsurance program that would help pay for high-cost care in a bid to keep premiums lower.
Raimondo said she also supports a bill pending in the General Assembly that would codify the Affordable Care Act’s consumer protections and insurance regulations in state law. “It’s our hope that we would strengthen and maintain the Affordable Care Act in the state of Rhode Island, regardless of what happens at the federal level,” she said.
Other local Democrats also piled on the administration. U.S. Sen. Jack Reed argued the legal maneuver was “beyond irresponsible,” while Congressman David Cicilline announced his co-sponsorship of a new bill that he said would add more protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions.