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Editorial cartoon (9/20/2017)

It's been a given for some time now.

The problems that the Obamacare insurance exchanges have been facing in some states are a direct result of the uncertainty that the Donald Trump administration has purposely created to undermine them. Some might call it sabotage.

A cynical administration keeps hinting that it may pull the plug on funding the subsidies that insurance companies receive for insuring low-income families in those exchanges. The result has been to spook insurers from participating or, if they do, to charge higher premiums in an effort to protect themselves.

But, it turns out, that's just one avenue that the Trump administration is using to make it more difficult for the popular health care system to function as it is designed to do.

Colleague John Nichols warns in his new book, "Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse," that Americans need to pay less attention to what Trump is tweeting from the White House and keep a closer watch on what his appointees are doing day after day. This is particularly true of the Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. His department is supposed to help Americans find health care and stay healthy, but the former ethics-challenged congressman -- he routinely bought shares in health-related corporations and then promoted bills in Congress that benefited them and, of course, himself -- has been doing his best to impose his right-wing ideology on the department since taking over last January.

Price was a major force behind the GOP's "repeal and replace Obamacare" health care plan that crashed and burned mainly because it was to take away health coverage from up to 20 million Americans.

But Price, a multimillionaire doctor himself, has far from given up in his war against the Affordable Care Act. A report in The New York Times Sept. 4 revealed that instead of working to fix the act so that it works as it was intended to, his department has been busy attempting to undermine it.

For example, instead of using the DHSS outreach budget to promote the ACA, it instead spent taxpayers' money on 23 video testimonials on YouTube from people who claimed to be "burdened by Obamacare," the report noted.

The Times interviewed some of the people featured on the videos and discovered that some were pushed into giving a harder line against the ACA.

According to the paper, in addition to the YouTube videos, Price's DHSS has been busy using Twitter accounts and issuing press releases attacking Obamacare. They include 48 Twitter posts by Price himself that include infographics disparaging the ACA. Most of the tweets came at the same time that the Trump administration announced it was ending contracts with companies that helped Americans sign up for Obamacare coverage.

But that's not all. The report revealed that Price's department has scrubbed the DHSS's website of information designed to help consumers learn about Obamacare with tips on how to get coverage.

"A link to a page about the Affordable Care Act disappeared from the health department's home page the evening of the inauguration," the Times' story pointed out.

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There were several other immediate changes to the website, most of them removing links to information on choosing a physician, for instance. And, not surprisingly, removing testimonials on the DHSS Obama-era website by people who said they were helped by the law and how, for the first time, they had health care coverage that saved them from financial ruin.

An impartial observer would call this "dirty pool."

But Price and several others of those Donald Trump appointed to offices that are supposed to work on behalf of the people have never been known for their honor.

If they can't figure out a legal way to impose their ideological beliefs on the citizenry, they have no problem designing underhanded ways to do so.

Such is the "swamp" the Donald promised to drain. He's filled it with even worse alligators and snakes instead.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. and on Twitter @DaveZweifel

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