President Donald Trump vowed last month that, if voters next year give him and the Republican Party full control of government, they’ll get rid of the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a “phenomenal” alternative.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s exactly what Trump promised in 2016. But when he and the GOP took control, it turned out they actually had no plan to address America’s outmoded, overpriced health care industry nearly as well as even Obama’s flawed health care program does.
Taking this pathologically mendacious president at his word is usually a bad idea, but this time, the nation should. Trump says if he and his party again get unfettered power, they will again endanger America’s health. Believe it.
The Obama program was designed to address the unacceptable fact that tens of millions of Americans couldn’t afford basic health care. The program isn’t perfect. Its mix of public- and private-sector elements was a fruitless attempt to get Republicans on board. Though the fit has always been clumsy, it has resulted in unprecedented expansion of health coverage and the end of indefensible practices like denying people insurance for preexisting conditions.
Rather than work with Democrats to improve the program, Republicans tried for years to knock it down and return America to the bad old days of treating health care like a luxury instead of a right. But once the GOP took full control of government in 2017 and faced owning the damage that destroying Obamacare would do, it backed off and settled instead for sabotaging the program in court.
It was in this context that Trump renewed his 2016 vow to repeal and replace Obamacare. Now, as then, he offered no specifics on the “replace” part. “We’re going to have a plan. … We’ll have phenomenal health care,” Trump said, with typically glittering generality, in an ABC News interview.
Democrats who campaigned on fixing rather than ditching Obamacare trounced Republicans in the midterms, taking back the House. Democrats in next year’s elections would love nothing more than to again put health care front and center, reminding voters that the GOP’s position essentially comes down to four words: You’re on your own.
As long as Trump’s promised alternative is nothing but grandiose adjectives lacking detail, it’s safe to assume that’s still the GOP position.
Congressional Republicans, understanding the politics of it better than Trump apparently does, are trying to shush him and change the subject. That doesn’t mean they’re done trying to kill Obamacare, but they know that’s a loser at the polls, so they want to wait until they’re safely back in power before they again attempt it.
The president who has logged more than 10,000 lies in office is, on this topic, more honest than most of his party: They will again come after America’s health care — if America lets them.