Death Spirals & Trump’s Healthcare Conspiracy

Death Spirals & Other Myths – Trump’s Obamacare Conspiracy (“It was designed to explode”)

By Jeff Kirkpatrick

March 23, 2017 [Updated March 27, 2017]


On March 10, 2017 Trump said, “[2017] would be a disaster for Obamacare. That was the year it was meant to explode.” Wait. What?

 “Trump’s Obamacare conspiracy – it was meant to explode in 2017” (0:14)


Where did Trump get that claim from – and why didn’t any major media outlets pick up on this dubious, paranoid conspiracy theory? The answer to the second part of that question is probably because we are inundated on a daily basis by Trump and his administration, and from Republicans in Congress, as well as Trump supporters of every kind – with countless conspiracy theories, outrages and lies (you know, “alternative facts”).

Trump not only loves unfounded conspiracies, he governs by them.

Trump loves conspiracies – the more delusional and paranoid – the better

The Crisis of Trump’s Conspiracy Theories | The Resistance with Keith Olbermann | GQ” (6:45)


This particular one slipped went under the radar – but it may be the foundation for Trump’s obsession to “repeal and replace Obamacare” – at any cost, even if it means people will die. If the basis for repealing the Affordable Care Act originates from a paranoid, delusional fantasy – then it deserves a closer examination because Obamacare is not in a “death spiral” but clearly, Trump is doing everything he can to make it so. It is important to understand Trump’s rationale for claiming Obamacare is dying because it speaks to the mental instability of the commander-in-chief.

When Trump said that 2017 was the year that Obamacare was “meant to explode”, he had to get that from somewhere. The trail that started with the conspiracy that the Democratic Party designed a healthcare plan that was designed to fail lead to a character who is linked to climate change science denialism, a wrongful death lawsuit, and an infamous rape trial.

It’s pretty clear that Trump has been governing the United States by channeling bullshit from sources like Fox “News” and Brietbart and other right-wing conspiracy factories. So it was no surprise to find that Dr. Jeffrey Barke had appeared on Fox “News.”

In an article by Bob Bryan, “Trump: Obamacare was ‘meant to explode’ in 2017,” published on the Business Insider website on March 11, 2017, Bryan wrote:

Trump went on to suggest this was the intent all along.

2017 “would be a disaster for Obamacare,” Trump said. “That’s the year it was meant to explode, because Obama won’t be here. That’s when it was supposed to be, get even worse. As bad as it is now, it’ll get even worse.”

Trump’s comments echo many prominent Republicans who have said the ACA is “collapsing” or in a “death spiral.” Obamacare critics have suggested that the law was intentionally designed to fail to allow Democrats to pass a single-payer healthcare system.

Analysis by the Brookings Institution showed Obamacare did not qualify under the technical definition of a “death spiral” after the 2016-2017 open enrollment period.

I was curious – who were these “Obamacare critics” who suggested this? The link provided shows that it’s not a “them,” it’s a “him.” Who was that guy? None other than Dr. Jeffrey Barke who published, “A doctor asks: Was ObamaCare designed to fail?” in The Hill on September 19, 2016.

Ah – that guy. Wait. Who is this guy?? His brief bio on The Hill says simply that “Dr. Barke practices family medicine in Newport Beach, California.” Dr. Barke offers a conspiracy theory – of course, without any evidence to back up his assertions – that Obamacare was designed to fail; that it was an intentional act by Democrats to take the next step towards – gasp! – establishing a single-payer system. He wrote, “Its authors purposely designed the law so that it would fail. And when it did, they could return to the American people with the promise that even greater government intervention in healthcare could end the ObamaCare nightmare.”

Wow. So – this was the plan all along, see. The authors carefully plotted to – not only design a healthcare plan that was written for the sole purpose of failing – but additionally, with supreme calculating, they also planned in advance – with prescient vision – that this failure would ultimately result in greater healthcare coverage for everyone in the United States. It just would have been way too easy to create that desired healthcare plan in the first place: what kind of fun would it be without a conspiratorial plan that only a science-denying doctor could expose years later?

Dr. Barke concluded his article by saying,

“That is why I’m voting for Donald Trump. From my position as a doctor, I have watched as ObamaCare has harmed my patients, increased costs, and done terrible damage to the greatest healthcare system in the world. Hillary Clinton has promised to empower bureaucrats and politicians to an even greater degree; Donald Trump has unveiled a plan to roll back ObamaCare put patients first. [sic] For the sake of the American people, it’s critical that he succeed.”

So, who is this guy, I wondered. Well, it turns out – he’s not just a doctor. According to the California Primary Care Association,

“Dr. Barke is a family physician in private practice in Newport Beach, CA. He attended undergraduate college at U.S.C. and Medical School at U.C. Irvine completing his Family Medicine Residency at U.C. Irvine Medical Center. He is also an elected School Board Member for Los Alamitos Unified School District. In addition, Dr. Barke serves as a tactical medic for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department SWAT and Search & Rescue teams as a reserve deputy. Dr. Barke worked for Presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson as the volunteer coordinator for Orange County and now volunteers with the Donald J. Trump campaign. Dr. Barke has published several articles on ObamaCare and has appeared on Fox News Special Report with Brett Bair.” [Emphasis added] See: “2016 Annual Conference Speaker Biographies,” by the California Primary Care Association (CPCA)

Ah. Okay. It’s starting to make sense now. See that little part about his role as a “reserve deputy”? I’ll get back to that.

This is undisclosed information on the article by The Hill would have alerted readers that this was not an ordinary physician, but someone with a possible vested interest in the outcome of the presidential election. Consider, for example, the recent bills proposed by Republicans regarding reducing malpractice lawsuits as well as the dollar amount rewarded in such cases. (See, “House GOP quietly advances key elements of tort reform,” by Kimberly Kindy, Washington Post; March 9, 2017).

Could Dr. Barke be supportive of Trump and the republicans in congress because of personal financial reasons? Who knows? Could there be any connection to a 2006-based wrongful death lawsuit in which he was named as a defendant? I don’t know.

Janene K. Johns “fell asleep at the wheel with sedatives in her system, killing a young mother in Newport Beach,” in August 2006. “The family of the victim,” wrote H. Lorren Au Jr., filed a lawsuit against Janene K. Johns’ two doctors, Dr. Corona and her other physician, Dr. Jeffrey Barke, for wrongful death. (See: “Fatal overdoses were fueled by prescription drugs,” by H. Lorren Au Jr., The Orange County Register; March 11, 2011; also see, “Family suing Hoag, doctors,” by Joseph Serna, Tribune Digital-Daily Pilot; May 17, 2008).

Dr. Barke happens to also be a climate change science denier. A blog post called “‘Teach the Controversy’ Argument Used by Climate Change Deniers,” by The Skeptical Teacher, published on May 28, 2011, stated that, “bogus ‘teach the controversy’ tactic is being used not only to thwart the teaching of evolutionary science but now climate change science as well.” At the root of this junk, is Dr. Barke. The blog post links to a more detailed interview with Dr. Barke by Leo Hickman, “US school board teaches ‘the controversy’ on global warming,” published by The Guardian on May 17, 2011. Also see, “School Board Stung by Science Class Outrage,” by Nayeli Pagaza, Los Alamitos, CA Patch; May 17, 2011.

Dr. Barke’s name appeared again a few years later in “O.C. schools skirt competitive bidding rules,” by Melody Petersen, Orange County Register, published on June 14, 2013. According to the article,

In early May 2008, an employee of Los Alamitos Unified tacked up a notice at the public library in downtown Seal Beach. The school district, it announced, had sued local residents. The fine print revealed more: the district had hired an out-of-town construction firm to remodel an elementary school and anyone opposed was ordered to respond quickly in court with a lawyer … “It was all done secretly,” said Stan Howard, a 27-year resident of Los Alamitos and the owner of Howard Contracting, which has done dozens of school construction jobs. “I’m a taxpayer and this isn’t right.”…. Soon after being hired in 2008, the San Diego County-based West Coast Air showed its appreciation to Los Alamitos officials. The company donated $25,000 to the political campaign that worked to pass a school bond measure in late 2008. The school then gave the company at least seven more building projects.

West Coast also donated $2,500 toward the cost of a bowling and country club party for principals and staff, district records show. Last year, it and another firm treated at least one board member, Dr. Jeffrey Barke, to a $175 round of golf, with lunch and dinner included.

So: Dr. Barke worked for the campaign for republican candidate Ben Carson, then volunteered for the Trump campaign; concocted a paranoid theory without scientific proof about a self-destructing healthcare plan by the Democrats; published about this theory without full disclosure; was a defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit; and is a proud climate change science denier who, as an elected School Board Member for Los Alamitos Unified School District, promotes the notion that schools should teach “alternative facts” about … science and evolution. Oh, and he likes to golf.

What else?

A rape trial – there was that. No, he wasn’t charged with rape. He was the doctor who was treating – and testified for – a sex offender … for the assailant. Not for the victim. Yes; the doctor testified on behalf of a sex offender (who Dr. Barke described as a friend), not the victim of the crimes.

According to CNN, on July 5, 2002, “17-year-olds Gregory Haidl, Kyle Nachreiner and Keith Spann videotaped themselves performing various acts on [a] girl.”

Dr. Barke was Gregory Haidl’s physician. CNN reported that “Haidl’s doctor, Jeffrey Barke of Newport Beach, said his patient has become clinically depressed and suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Barke’s request to remove him from jail and into a proper mental facility was rejected on January 10, 2005.” (See: “Retrial set for teens accused of gang-raping girl,” by Samantha Murphy, CNN; February 1, 2005).

So, Dr. Barke does have compassion: for a sex offender.

But wait. Let’s take a step back and look at this in context, okay? I mean, what was this rape case anyway? (Brace yourself).

Prosecutor Chuck Middleton says Haidl and two buddies (Kyle Nachreiner and Keith Spann) videotaped themselves raping and molesting an unconscious underaged girl on a pool table during a 2002 Newport Beach party.

The alleged crime began after the defendants, who were drunk, gave a 16-year-old girl beer, marijuana and a glass of Bombay Gin. When the girl became incoherent, they used her for sex and ended the night by shoving a pool stick, Snapple bottle, lit cigarette and juice can into her vagina and anus as they laughed and danced to sexually suggestive rap music. Haidl lost the tape after showing it to friends. Police who recovered the video initially thought the female body in the film was a corpse. [Emphasis added]

Since this was published before their conviction, the word “alleged” no longer applies. The first trial resulted in a second. In the first trial, prosecutors charged the three defendants with “assault by means of force likely to cause great bodily injury and eight sexual offenses including one count of rape by intoxication, one count of oral copulation by intoxication, and six counts of sexual penetration with a foreign object by intoxication.” This resulted in a mistrial. In the second trial, “the jury convicted defendants of multiple counts of sexual penetration with a foreign object by intoxication.” (See: “PEOPLE v. HAIDL – Number G036852,” by

In a series of articles, award-winning investigative journalist, R. Scott Moxley describes in detail some of the horrors of this case. Moxley, it should be noted, “has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club and been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists.” In “Haidl Wept,” by R. Scott Moxley, published in OC Weekly on January 13, 2005 (quoted above), Moxley also wrote that,

It appears Greg Haidl now knows his actions carry consequences. Locked up since Nov. 16 for repeatedly violating the conditions of his $100,000 bail, the 19-year-old son of a wealthy, ex-assistant sheriff doesn’t want to spend another minute incarcerated. Jail is apparently uncomfortable. And on Jan. 10, after a judge refused to move him from the Orange County Jail to a private mental-health facility in Costa Mesa, Haidl wept….

In making his decision, the judge considered a complaint list compiled by Haidl’s team of nine attorneys and four doctors: the jail atmosphere is stressful. He can’t sleep comfortably. His back hurts. He isn’t satisfied with visitation procedures. He wants more privacy. He’d like a new cell and more time on the phone. He thinks scary inmates shouldn’t be housed nearby. He’s tired of deputies listening to his conversations with other inmates. He’s pissed jail officials won’t give him better anti-anxiety drugs.

Oh, and he wants something else: affection.

“The kid needs love,” testified Dr. Jeffrey I. Barke, co-owner of Newport Medical Consultants and Haidl’s latest physician. “He needs TLC . . . and they’re not giving him that in jail.”  [Emphasis added].

Haidl had already been given one break. Back in November, Superior Court Judge Francisco Briseo made sheriff’s department supervisors guarantee this rape defendant won’t be sodomized in jail. And though the judge blocked efforts to release Haidl to a private mental hospital at this latest hearing, he says he wants to be sensitive to the defendant’s feelings.

So, you see Dr. Barke feels sorry for … a sex offender. According to Moxley,

The next jury should prepare for mind twisters. Tracking defense-team assertions often requires a flow chart. For example, in October, Haidl violated bail by drinking alcohol, getting high on painkillers and then crashing his 2005 car into oncoming traffic. At the scene, he said he was sober and blamed his appearance on “spicy Indian food.” Later, we learned Haidl was extremely intoxicated and had been searching for his Santa Ana drug dealer before the crash. In November, a Haidl psychiatrist—hoping to keep Haidl out of jail and in a mental hospital for alleged suicidal tendencies—testified that his patient had been trying to commit suicide the night of the crash.

That having failed, the defense team offered a new spin on the October crash. On Jan. 10, Dr. Barke said, “The car accident was the result of medication he took and was his way to ease the pain of his depression. I don’t think the purpose was to kill himself.”

Deputy District Attorney Brian Gurwitz asked Barke if he’d be surprised to hear Dr. Irwin Rosenfeld, Haidl’s psychiatrist, had given the court conflicting information about the night of the crash. “No,” said Barke, who described himself as a “doctor, counselor and friend” to Haidl. “How we interpret that night is variable.”  [Emphasis added].

What’s not variable, at least to Barke, is Haidl’s condition.

“He’s suffering from severe clinical depression, severe anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, and he desperately needs counseling,” said the doctor, who called the rape suspect’s experiences “horrendous.”

Barke didn’t offer any sympathy for the alleged rape victim and her family.

“Greg’s a very conflicted young man,” said Barke. “Greg’s suffering from medical and mental illness. Greg needs help. . . . In a perfect world [in jail], we could go to Greg every day and say, ‘How’s your anxiety?’”

The doctor says the rape cases have put an unfair burden on Haidl. “Greg is understandably very, very angry, depressed and frustrated that he has no way to vent,” he said.

A worried-looking, soft-spoken Briseo asked the doctor what would make Haidl feel better under the circumstances. Sitting on the witness stand, Barke looked at the defendant and said, “Greg desperately needs a caring environment.” The doctor wants him housed at College Hospital because Haidl “isn’t being treated fairly” in jail. “It’s pretty far from a therapeutic environment.” [Emphasis added].

“Barke didn’t offer any sympathy for the alleged rape victim and her family.

Let me be sure that Barke’s testimony and support for Haidl is given the right context. Consider what Moxley wrote in 2012 in “Justice Takes a Pool Cue,” which was published in OC Weekly on April 26, 2012:

In California, it’s illegal to have sex with someone so intoxicated or drugged she cannot resist. Setting aside the DA’s contention that the defendants laced Doe’s drink with GHB or some other fast-acting narcotic, there was no dispute that the high school sophomore drank beer, smoked marijuana and gulped an eight-ounce glass of Bombay gin. Haidl captured her fall on video. Within minutes, Doe’s speech was slurred and her body displayed the rigidity of a rag doll. She said, “Greg, I feel ill” and 30 seconds later, “I’m so fucked-up.” Those were her last words. Eight minutes and 15 seconds later, the defendants had Doe stripped and, as the normally reserved Superior Court Judge Everett Dickey observed during preliminary hearings, “used her like a piece of meat” on a wicker sofa and pool table in Haidl’s garage. As Spann began fucking the incoherent girl for a second time, it was Haidl—described as a kind, shy “little boy” by his father—who shouted, “Put it down for the militia, bitch!”

Context matters, right?

“Never mind that a self-induced comatose person can’t give consent, either. Never mind that Nachreiner disappeared for at least 15 minutes when he was making Doe’s iceless gin drink, even though the gin bottle and cup were in the garage with them, or that police later found a powerful prescription sedative on a bathroom countertop in the Haidl house. Never mind that the defendants repeatedly signaled to one another on the video that Doe was knocked out. Never mind that Doe, face-down on the pool table, didn’t flinch when she urinated on herself as Haidl slapped her genitals and Nachreiner vigorously plunged a pool cue into her vagina. Never mind that Doe vomited that night. Never mind that she reeked of alcohol and looked like hell the next morning. Never mind that those who saw Doe in the aftermath testified that her last memory was drinking Nachreiner’s foul-tasting concoction.” [Emphasis added].

There is simply no way that Dr. Barke could have been unaware of these details. After all, he testified on behalf of Haidl. Who was Haidl anyway? The son of a millionaire; Moxley wrote,

The elder Haidl made a fortune of tens of millions of dollars in the used-car auction business in Rancho Cucamonga and–because he had no law-enforcement training–bribed then-Sheriff (now prison inmate) Mike Carona into giving him a top-ranking post at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. In hopes of crushing the charges against his son and intimidating the victim, he spent millions of dollars to create a legal defense team of more than a dozen lawyers (including Cavallo, who was eventually convicted in a bail-bondsmen-kickback scheme; John Barnett; Pete Scalisi, Thomas E. Dunn, Peter J. Morreale and Armand Arabian, a former California Supreme Court justice) as well as private detective John Warren, a retired FBI agent. Two words describe their tactics: disgracefully ruthless. [Emphasis added].

Remember that part that I said I’d get back to you on? Barke’s bio lists him as a reserve deputy for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. What a coincidence. From the same article quoted above, “Greg Haidl: Stop Making Me Publicly Register As a Sex Offender!” by R. Scott Moxley, OC Weekly, January 15, 2014, Haidl’s millionaire father bribed a former Orange County sheriff “into giving him a top-ranking post at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.” And Dr. Barke, well, he’s a reserve deputy there. What an odd … coincidence.

To sum up, Dr. Barke worked for the campaign for republican candidate Ben Carson, then volunteered for the Trump campaign; concocted a paranoid theory without scientific proof about a self-destructing healthcare plan by Democrats; published about this unfounded conspiracy theory without full disclosure of his political activism; was a defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit; and is a proud climate change science denier who, as an elected School Board Member for Los Alamitos Unified School District, promotes the notion that schools should teach “alternative facts” about … science and evolution. We also know he likes to golf (wink!) and importantly, he has compassion – for sex offenders.

So, Dr. Barke’s support for Trump makes sense – it’s a nice fit really. Beyond Barke’s ability to promote science denialism and create an unfounded, absurd, illogical conspiracy theory (which Trump absolutely adores), Barke and Donald “Grab-them-by-the-Pussy” Trump go together like shit on a shoe: after all, Barke already has a proven track record for supporting a sex offender.


UPDATE: March 27, 2017

Republicans recently failed to pass a draconian version of healthcare. You can read more about this version of Trumpcare in my post, “Trump’s Budget and Healthcare Plan are Economic Terrorism”.

Although this was a relief for millions of Americans, there is no doubt that Trump is determined to make sure Obamacare explodes – by any means possible.

Most observers know by now that Trump is mentally unstable, and many have stated that (at a minimum) he has malignant narcissistic personality disorder with psychopathy. People who have this incurable personality disorder refuse to accept that they are ever wrong – about anything. Trump will do anything and everything he can to make sure Obamacare explodes, if for no other reason than to say he was right. Among the tools he can use are refusing to allow his administration to defend certain cases in court [1].  Even though such an action would violate his oath to uphold the laws of the United States, this won’t matter to him one bit.

Additionally, the very definition of insurance is based on a mandatory participation of all eligible people; this is how car insurance works. Even if you have never had a car accident in 70 years, you still have to pay. And since everyone else has to pay, the amount you pay is lower and affordable – that’s a critical component of Obamacare – everyone must participate. The enforcement mechanism was a fine and reporting your insurance coverage to the IRS. However, under Trump, the IRS is no longer going to serve as an enforcement tool [2]. This in and of itself will chip away at the foundation that makes the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, work – even with all of its flaws. Those flaws must be fixed but Republicans have no intention of doing that whatsoever. They have taken the absurd position that people should not be forced by the government to have insurance. This basically means that in the end, only the rich will have insurance; everyone else – well – as the T-Shirt says, Trumpcare is like Trump University [3], except you die.

[1] “The easiest way for the Trump administration to undermine the health law would be to stop defending a lawsuit brought by the House of Representatives. That suit said that the Obama administration lacked the authority to pay certain Obamacare subsidies. A lower court ruled for the House, meaning that by simply withdrawing from the appeal, the Trump administration could start a process to eliminate those subsidies and cause a collapse of the insurance market. Mr. Trump’s order said nothing about that policy choice.” See, Margot Sanger-Katz, “What Does Trump’s Executive Order against Obamacare Actually Do?” New York Times, January 21, 2017

[2]. “On inauguration day, he signed an order directing agencies to “minimize” the “burdens” of Obamacare. And the IRS took him at his word. Originally, the IRS was going to play hardball – and flat-out reject the tax returns of uninsured people who didn’t either pay the tax penalty or claim a hardship exemption. But thanks to the president’s order, the IRS now says returns will still be accepted, even with that part left blank. That means a lot of healthy people won’t buy insurance – which begins the death spiral.” See, Dave Ross, “Trump couldn’t kill Obamacare but will he sabotage it?” My Northwest; March 27, 2017

[3]. ]. “Trump University: N.Y. attorney general says ‘this is straight up fraud,’” by David Wright, CNN; June 2, 2016

Trump University: It’s Worse than You Think,” by John Cassidy, The New Yorker; June 2, 2016

What the Legal Battle Over Trump University Reveals About Its Founder,” by Steven Brill, TIME; November 5, 2016

Former Trump University student: It was a fraud” – YouTube (3:26) published by CNN on June 2, 2016


For further reading see:

No, Obamacare Isn’t in a ‘Death Spiral,’” by Reed Abelson and Margot Sanger-Katz, New York Times; March 15, 2017

‘People Would Go Crazy’” by R. Scott Moxley, OC Weekly; March 6, 2006

Rapist to victim: I didn’t mean to hurt you with that lit cigarette and pool cue,” by the Reclusive Leftist; March 12, 2006

Excerpt: “It was never my intention to hurt you and cause you pain. I can’t take back any negative feelings and emotions, and I’m sorry for that also.”

So apparently Greg just didn’t realize that being impaled on a pool cue might hurt. He had no idea that a lit cigarette in the vagina or anus might cause pain, not to mention permanent scarring. Poor Greg. He just didn’t know.

And in case you’re wondering if there’s any ambiguity about what’s on the tape, here’s what the jury foreman said about it:

“The tape proved they were guilty. If you show that video on the news, everybody’s view would be that these guys should hang. People would go crazy. You know what I mean? It was primal. It looked like savages having their way with a piece of meat.”

Meet Jane Doe,” by R. Scott Moxley, OC Weekly; April 26, 2012

Excerpt: Your typical rape victim endures enormous pain, but what Doe experienced was unforgivable. In addition to the intimidation campaign and the embarrassing national exposure, she had to sit for hours in the witness chair while Haidl’s defense lawyers called her names and played (and replayed) on courtroom monitors a video of her vaginal and anal exam after the crime. Private investigators parked in front of her house and tailed her parents to work. According to law-enforcement sources, Haidl’s emissaries offered secret deals to buy her silence.  [Emphasis added].




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