File photo taken in November 2017 shows U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
Kyodo via AP Images

Trump: China can pay for pre-existing-condition protections


At a campaign rally late last week, Donald Trump peddled a familiar line on health care, but he added a new twist to his pitch.

“We will always protect Americans with pre-existing conditions. We’re going to take care of them. Some of the Democrats have been talking about ending pre-existing conditions.

“And some people have – you know what I say? We’ll get a little more money from China. It’ll be just fine. It’ll be just fine. We’ll be just fine.

“We’re going to take care of pre-existing conditions, folks. Remember that.”

Right off the bat, it’s important to note that the president is just straight-up lying about his – and his party’s – position on protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions. Trump may expect voters to believe that “we” will always extend these safeguards, but he and his administration have taken aggressive steps in the opposite direction.

What’s more, the idea that some Democrats “have been talking about ending pre-existing conditions” is plainly ridiculous, even by Trump standards. He just made this up out of whole cloth. It’s brazen nonsense.

But it’s that other part of the president’s pitch that stood out as especially odd: he apparently expects to finance consumer health care protections by getting “a little more money from China.”

So let me get this straight: Trump thinks he’ll get Mexico to pay for a border wall, and he’ll get China to pay for protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions?

The inescapable problem is that Trump still hasn’t figured out what tariffs are. The president somehow got in his head that by imposing tariffs on China, he’s created a tax that China is now paying to the United States.

In fact, he’s said as much more than once. Two weeks ago, for example, Trump released a video via social media in which he said Americans are “taking in a lot of money” as a result of his tariffs. Two weeks earlier, the Republican president said the same thing, arguing at a White House event that thanks to his tariffs, there’s “a lot of money coming into the coffers of the United States of America. A lot of money coming in.”

Evidently, Trump believes he can take some of that money and use it to pay for health care coverage.

This would be less of a problem if the president’s ignorance weren’t quite so profound. There is no money “coming into the coffers of the United States” as a result of the tariffs on China. One need not be a wonk on trade policy to know that Trump’s argument is basically gibberish.

As Politico  noted a month ago, “President Donald Trump said Monday that China is paying the U.S. billions of dollars in tariffs as he ramps up his trade war with Beijing. But that’s inaccurate: American consumers and businesses are the ones who will be paying higher costs for imports after he slapped penalties on $200 billion in Chinese goods.”

If Trump is serious about reversing his position on protecting those with pre-existing conditions and adopting the Democratic agenda, great. If he’s counting on China to pay for his newfound preference, the White House will need a give the president another tutorial on his tariffs work.