PHILADELPHIA (Reuters)—Tom Westerman voted for Donald Trump in last year’s election but says he might not do so again after the president cut off billions of dollars in Obamacare subsidies to health insurance companies.
“It really upset me,” said Westerman, 63, a self-described “middle-class guy” with an annual household income of about $60,000 in the western Pennsylvania city of Arnold.
Westerman’s change of heart reflects mounting fears among middle-class Democrats and Republicans that their health insurance costs will soar as Trump weakens former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, which extended insurance to more than 20 million Americans.
Trump said last week he would stop paying the monthly subsidies, which he has derided as a bailout of insurers. The money reimburses insurers for discounts on deductibles, copays and other out-of-pocket costs the firms still must provide under Obamacare to low-income households.
Some insurers, anticipating that Trump would end the funding, had already raised 2018 premiums on insurance plans under Obama’s Affordable Care Act to recoup those funds. Others withdrew from Obamacare markets in many states because of the uncertainty.
“It seems like he is trying to hurt the middle class,” said Westerman, who is retired from a manufacturing company in Pennsylvania, a state that Trump won by little more than 44,000 votes over Democrat Hillary Clinton. It was the first time a Republican candidate had won Pennsylvania since 1988.
Westerman already pays $520 a month in healthcare premiums and about $700 a month for his 21-year-old daughter’s college tuition. “He says he’s going to make it better for everyone. How does a (premium) increase make it better?”
A White House spokesman declined to comment and referred inquiries to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump has called subsidy payments a “gift” for insurance companies. His administration has argued that it cannot lawfully make the payments unless Congress passes new legislation.
Some people said they were encouraged to see Trump deliver on a campaign promise to dismantle Obamacare, after repeated failures by congressional Republicans to repeal the 2010 law.
“I support the president because I think Obamacare is imploding and it not only impacts those on Obamacare, but everybody,” said Roger Heuring, 58, who lives in New Jersey. Heuring is on an employer plan but said his sister in Ohio buys insurance on the Obamacare market.
“Forget the president – it’s the Congress’s responsibility. They’re the ones that passed this mess to begin with,” Heuring said.