President Trump wants Tuesday’s midterm elections to be about immigration. The idea of criminal brown people invading the United States is abstract enough for him to propagandize the issue to no end. An issue like health care is not, but that hasn’t stopped the president from claiming the GOP will safeguard protections for pre-existing conditions. “Republicans will totally protect people with Pre-Existing Conditions, Democrats will not! Vote Republican,” he tweeted last week. “Republicans will protect people with pre-existing conditions far better than the Dems!” he wrote on Wednesday. Earlier in October, he said that protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions is “a major part of what I’m all about.”
This is about all Trump can manage, however, as the issue isn’t very open to interpretation. Not only will Republicans not protect pre-existing conditions, they’re actively working to strip protections. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 130 million American adults under the age of 65 have such conditions, and the health care of millions would be jeopardy if insurers were permitted to a patient’s pre-existing health status to deny coverage or charge higher premiums.
During a rare press briefing this past Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to reconcile Trump’s claims with the fact that the administration has endorsed a lawsuit that would undercut protections. She wasn’t able to offer much more than Trump has said in his tweets. “Look, the president’s health care plan that he’s laid out covers pre-existing conditions,” she said. She didn’t address the administration’s ongoing effort to stripping protections.
Not only has no health care “plan” been “laid out” by Trump, the administration is doing all it can to allow insurers to discriminate based on health status. The problem is that pesky Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which includes protections for pre-existing conditions. Republicans tried and failed to repeal the ACA last year, but that hasn’t stopped them from trying to litigate it out of existence.
Focus has long centered around the ACA’s individual mandate, which required most Americans to have health insurance lest they pay a financial penalty. Republicans saw the mandate as unconstitutional, but in 2012 it was upheld by the Supreme Court on the grounds that it fell within the government’s right to tax. So after the GOP’s repeal effort failed last fall, Republicans made sure to axe the financial penalty as part of the $1.5 trillion tax bill Trump signed in December, setting the stage for a fresh challenge to the mandate’s constitutionality. The Justice Department did so in June, backing a lawsuit arguing that now that the mandate would no longer generate tax revenue for the government, the 2012 ruling no longer applied. The administration specifically targeted the ACA’s protections for pre-existing conditions, claiming, absurdly, that they are inextricable from the mandate, and thus also unconstitutional. When Sanders says that Trump’s health care plan covers pre-existing conditions, it is not only a lie; it is the polar opposite of the truth. The only concerted “plan” the administration has is to eliminate those very protections.
So why is Trump even tweeting about it? Because 75 percent of Americans feel it’s “very important” to retain protections for pre-existing conditions, and Republican candidates are under fire from their Democratic challengers for supporting their elimination. In 2013, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) orchestrated a shutdown of the entire government in protest of the Affordable Care Act, and in June he called Justice Department’s position supporting legislation that would eliminate pre-existing conditions “reasonable.” His challenger, Rep. Beto O’Rourke (R-TX) isn’t letting it slide.
Senator Cruz shut down our government for 16 days because he believed too many people had too much health care. He has voted consistently to take away health care from millions of people. #TexasDebate #TeamBeto pic.twitter.com/Ia8gZVuK38
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) October 17, 2018
Cruz responded like Trump, baselessly claiming Republicans actually are going to protect pre-existing conditions. “We can protect pre-existing conditions, and you need to understand, everyone agrees we’re going to protect pre-existing conditions,” he said. Similar denials have been issued by Republicans candidates in several other high-profile races.
There’s Governor Rick Scott in Florida, currently running for Senate, who presides over one of the 20 Republican-controlled states who brought the legislation that would strip protections for pre-existing conditions. “I’ve always supported protecting people with pre-existing conditions,” Scott tweeted last month. “For Nelson and his boss @chuckschumer to say otherwise isn’t just deceptive, it’s completely made up.” Sen. Bill Nelson (R-FL) has attacked Scott for Florida’s involvement in the lawsuit. Scott has claimed the state’s attorney general signed onto the suit without telling him.
There’s Arizona Senate candidate Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ), who enthusiastically voted to repeal the ACA and strip protections for pre-existing conditions last fall.
New Martha McSally ad says she's "leading the fight" to "force insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions."https://t.co/j8JP8ncR2V
She voted for the AHCA, which undid Obamacare and included waivers that'd let insurance companies charge more for pre-ex conditions.
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) October 24, 2018
There’s Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA), who last month released a campaign video describing his daughter’s fight with leukemia as proof that, for him, protecting pre-existing conditions is “personal.” Like McSally, Rohrabacher last year voted to repeal the ACA and replace it with the American Health Care Act, which would have gutted protections. “While a different approach, it is no less committed to covering Americans with pre-existing conditions,” he said at the time, a statement which is hard to spin as even remotely true.
The list goes on. As usual, however, it starts with Trump who has never met a lie too brazen to lay on the American people. Drumming up fear over the migrant caravan is a gross political tactic, and though his propaganda regarding immigration has featured plenty of lies, it’s rooted in what amounts to a profound mischaracterization. This is not the case with health care, which is why the president and Republicans running for office have been so vague in stating their “plan” to protect pre-existing conditions. All they can do is hope Americans take their word for it. Health care can be pretty hard to understand, after all. Take it from the president of the United States. “Now, I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject,” Trump said shortly after taking office. “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”