CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — More than three-and-a-half years into his presidency and 40 days from an election, President Donald Trump on Thursday launched what aides termed a “vision” for health care heavy on unfulfilled aspirations.
“This is affirmed, signed, and done, so we can put that to rest,” Trump said. He signed an executive order on a range of issues, including protecting people with preexisting medical conditions from insurance discrimination.
But that right is already guaranteed in the Obama-era health law his administration is asking the Supreme Court to overturn.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dismissively said Trump's “bogus executive order on pre-existing conditions isn’t worth the paper it’s signed on.” Democrats are betting heavily that they have the edge on health care this election season.
Trump spoke at an airport hangar in swing-state North Carolina to a crowd that included white-coated, mask-wearing health care workers. He stood on a podium in front of a blue background emblazoned with “America First Healthcare Plan.” His latest health care pitch won accolades from administration officials and political supporters but failed to impress others.
“Executive orders issued close to elections are not the same thing as actual policies,” said Katherine Hempstead, a senior policy adviser with the nonpartisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which works on a range of health care issues, from coverage to quality.
Trump’s speech served up a clear political attack, as he accused Democrats of wanting to unleash a “socialist nightmare” on the U.S. health care system, complete with rationing. But Democratic nominee Joe Biden has rejected calls from his party’s left for a government-run plan for all. Instead, the former vice president wants to expand the Affordable Care Act, and add a new public program as an option.
Trump returned to health care amid disapproval of his administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and growing uncertainty about the future of the Obama-era law.
In a rambling speech, he promised quality health care at affordable prices, lower prescription drug costs, more consumer choice and greater transparency. His executive order would also to try to end surprise medical bills.
“'If we win we will have a better and less expensive plan that will always protect individuals with preexisting conditions,” Trump declared.
But while his administration has made some progress on its health care goals, the sweeping changes Trump promised as a candidate in 2016 have eluded him.
The clock has all but run out in Congress for major legislation on lowering drug costs or ending surprise bills, much less replacing the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.”
Pre-election bill signing ceremonies on prescription drugs and surprise medical charges were once seen as achievable — if challenging — goals for the president. No longer.
Trump's speech Thursday conflated some of his administration's achievements with policies that are in stages of implementation and ones that remain aspirational.
Democrats are warning Trump would turn back the clock if given another four years in the White House, and they're promising coverage for all and lower drug prices.