Trump Budget Chief Admits Trump Is Threatening to Hurt People, Not Insurance Companies

Like many Republicans, Trump Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney tells more than his fair share of lies about health care, but he also has an uncanny knack for blurting out cold and devastating truths about Republican governing philosophy. Both of those traits were on spectacular display Wednesday morning, during a skillfully conducted interview with “New Day” host Chris Cuomo.

Over the weekend, Mulvaney pushed the idea that withholding Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) payments is a way to make insurance companies share the pain of increased premiums, which is itself an internally illogical premise given that many of those increases are driven by Republican sabotage.

But on Wednesday morning, Cuomo pressed Mulvaney to admit that withholding those payments hurts Americans, a fact which Mulvaney wound up cheerfully admitting:

CUOMO: The difference between the consumer and insurer is that the consumer pays the price, the insurer passes it along through premiums. You know they’re going to raise premiums, they tell you that they will. Why would you allow that to happen?

MULVANEY: That’s a great point that you and I can talk about on corporate taxes. Because every time Republicans say we want to lower corporate tax, Democrats always say it’s a giveaway to corporations, when we remind them that it’s actually citizens who pay the corporate tax through the higher price of goods. It’s a wonderful conversation to have on tax reform.

CUOMO: Then answer my question. Why would you allow insurers to raise premiums in some effort just to cripple Obamacare?

MULVANEY: Let’s make one thing perfectly clear. Insurance companies have been raising premiums even with these payments having been made for the last several years. I live in a state that only has one provider. My insurance premiums have gone up every single year. Until I was in this job, when I was in Congress, I was on one of the Obamacare care exchanges. … I lost my doctor, I know exactly what it’s doing my wife lost her doctor.

To be clear, the facts are that premiums always go up, but premium growth has slowed under Obamacare, and insurance companies changed their doctors’ networks every year before Obamacare. More to the point, though, all of the Republican plans make these problems worse, as Cuomo forcefully pointed out later in the interview:

“The CBO says every one of your suggestions made it worse. Every. Single. One, the CBO said. Your reaction to that was to try to dismantle the CBO.”

Mulvaney’s response was to tell a string of lies (popular ones) about what the CBO says, and attack the CBO itself even though its head was hand-picked by Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary.

Finally, Cuomo asked the simple yet awesome question that far too few journalists ever ask. After Cuomo called out the Republican sabotage of not expanding Medicaid in many states, Mulvaney tried to blame insurance problems on a lack of “market forces,” and Cuomo asked him “What does that mean? When has that ever worked in the insurance world?”

Mulvaney, as expected, could not provide an example because one does not exist:

Mulvaney has unwittingly identified the reason market forces don’t work for health insurance, because it is also the only life-or-death aspect of American life that we try and treat like an ordinary product. There’s no free-market military or police or fire department, because these are things that we can only afford to do well through collective cost-sharing.

Yet none of those fields have suffered from a lack of innovation, because there are lots of private businesses that supplement them, and do respond to market forces. Health insurance isn’t really a product, it is a poorly-constructed method of cost-sharing.

Every journalist should watch the very few interviews like this that exist, and have the willingness to challenge the fundamental, yet absurd, premises that underpin Republican health care policy.

What do you think?

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