Trump Can't Get Out of His Own Way on Healthcare

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Shocker: Trump’s inexplicable decision to promise a new GOP alternative to the Affordable Care Act is continuing to flounder. A story in Politico this morning highlights the difficult and ridiculous position Republicans are in now: They can’t offer any kind of positive healthcare agenda, because everything they actually want is deeply unpopular, and the only ideas they are kicking around are hated by some significant faction.

According to Politico, the four senators that Trump had identified to work on his health plan—GOP Sens. Mitt Romney, John Barrasso, Rick Scott, and Bill Cassidy—aren’t “jumping at the opportunity”:

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) says any new plan has to come from the White House — and that he had no warning Trump planned to make him part of the health policy group. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) won’t say more than he and colleagues are “working on health care thoughts.” John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), when asked about the Republican plan, turned the question back on the opposition, saying, “Democrats want to go to the complete government takeover of health care.”

And Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), the fourth member of Trump’s team, hasn’t committed to anything more than “conversations with colleagues”about health care affordability.

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There is an actual plan out there, developed by the Heritage Foundation. But, according to Politico, it has conservatives arguing it doesn’t go far enough and moderates worried about violating “their pledges to protect people with pre-existing conditions”—pledges which are, of course, utter bullshit, since they were made as Republican state attorney generals attempt to overthrow those protections through lawsuits. 

It is also, as you’d expect, objectively awful:

The plan would scrap Obamacare’s requirement that health plans cover essential health benefits like hospitalization and prescription drugs, and once again allow insurers to charge older customers far higher rates than younger enrollees — a provision Obamacare supporters label an “age tax.”

I am not sure what the constituency of voters is in favor of allowing health insurance not to cover hospitalization or drugs, but there we go. As for the administration, Trump chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said on Sunday that there’ll be a Republican plan “fairly shortly,” and according to CNN, key Trump health staff reportedly held weekend meetings at Camp David to discuss a plan.

The entire pivot back to healthcare for Trump is, as we’ve noted before, extremely ill-advised. There’s simply no way to satisfy conservatives and not hurt themselves politically.

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But if the goal of the Republican Party is to make healthcare more inequitable, which it seems to be, the Trump administration is doing just fine making American healthcare worse. They’ve allowed states to introduce Medicaid work requirements, which has already resulted in tens of thousands of people being kicked off their healthcare. They’re allowing the sale of junk short-term health insurance plans, which cover almost nothing, for a longer period of time. They’re interfering with the Affordable Care Act exchanges. They’re working on getting the entire ACA struck down. And, of course, they succeeded in installing two Supreme Court justices, who will help ensure that any future healthcare reform must get past a conservative majority.

The only thing they could do to fuck up their vile program is, well, exactly what they’re doing right now.

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About the author

Libby Watson

Splinter politics writer. libby.watson@splinternews.com