In the middle of a pandemic, in an election year, President Trump is realizing that Americans highly value the health care system he’s tried so hard to dismantle.
Last week, Trump suggested that he would sign an executive order requiring insurers to cover preexisting conditions—a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, which has been the law of the land for more than 10 years. Asked at a Monday press conference why he felt the need to reinforce an existing law, Trump all but admitted to the ploy for good PR. “Just a double safety net,” he said, “and just to let people know that the Republicans are totally, strongly in favor of preexisting condition, taking care of people with preexisting conditions.”
Trump also bragged on Monday about getting rid of the individual mandate, the requirement that uninsured Americans pay a yearly penalty, which was set to $0 as part of the 2017 tax cuts. What he didn’t mention is that the lack of an individual mandate is the basis of a lawsuit, filed by Republican attorneys general and supported by the Trump administration, that threatens to undo the entire Affordable Care Act—protections for preexisting conditions and all. Republicans argue that without the mandate, the ACA is unconstitutional; in other words, Trump has given the GOP the new ammunition to go after the health care law. (The suit is currently at the Supreme Court.) Not only would it eliminate coverage for preexisting conditions, but it would leave the 23 million Americans who currently rely on Obamacare uninsured.
The promised executive order on preexisting conditions is one of Trump’s numerous recent attempts to portray himself as a health care advocate amid a pandemic that has killed more than 160,000 Americans. With even red states like Oklahoma and Missouri voting to expand Medicaid, it has become obvious that health care is a winning issue. Just don’t let Trump fool you into thinking he’s been fighting for health care all along.