US President Donald Trump looks on before signing finical services executive orders and memorandums at the US Treasury Department in Washington, DC, April 21, 2017.

Trump touts Australia’s health system (to Bernie Sanders’ delight)

Donald Trump’s approach to most issues is routinely incoherent, but Australia offers a special case.

In his second week as president, the Republican had a disastrous conversation with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull via phone, in which Trump bragged about his imagined electoral-college landslide, lashed out at Turnbull over a refugee agreement, and abruptly hung up 25 minutes into an hour-long call.

Last night, the American president, after meeting with Turnbull in person, said the media’s characterization of the testy phone call in January was wrong. Seconds later, Trump added that the call did, in fact, “get a little bit testy.”

I’m glad we cleared that up.

But Trump also took some time last night to praise Australia’s government-funded universal health care system. The Washington Post reported:
“We have a failing health care – I shouldn’t say this to our great gentleman and my friend from Australia, because you have better health care than we do,” a tuxedo-clad Trump said at a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Manhattan on Thursday.

Australia has a government-funded health-care system, called Medicare, that exists alongside private insurance. The system is funded in part by taxes, including on the wealthy.
I’ve never seen Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) so pleased with a policy pronouncement from Donald Trump.

All In with Chris Hayes, 5/4/17, 8:12 PM ET

Sanders: House health care bill is an insult

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders says the House bill to repeal Obamacare is really just a massive tax cut for the rich.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders says the House bill to repeal Obamacare is really just a massive tax cut for the rich.
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes aired the president’s praise of the Australian system on his show last night, and asked the Vermont senator for his reaction. Sanders, looking like he was ready to jump out of his chair, said with enthusiasm, “Oh, OK, wait a minute, Chris, wait a minute. All right, the president has just said it. That’s great. Let’s take a look at the Australian healthcare system…. Let us move to a Medicare-for-all system that does what every other major country on earth does: guarantee healthcare to all people at a fraction of the cost per-capita that we spend. Thank you, Mr. President. We’ll quote you on the floor of the Senate.”

We’ll probably never know for sure, but I have a strong hunch that Trump could be talked into endorsing a single-payer system in a matter of minutes. He used to support such a system, and as recently as January, Trump said he wanted to move to a simpler model in which 100% of the population is covered at a lower cost.

Or put another way, he wanted something that looks like Australia’s system, which Trump publicly praised last night as superior to the American model.

Of course, the truth is, Trump doesn’t really know what the American model is, how the Australian system works, or the benefits of either. He just says whatever words come to his mind, and in his case, he wanted to say “Obamacare” is bad and the Republican plan he knows nothing about is good. He was sitting next to an Australian leader, but had he been sitting next to the prime minister of India, Trump probably would’ve said the same thing.

Regardless, if Trump is willing to express his support for Australia’s system, Sanders and many progressive voices on health care will be only too pleased to use this in the future.