On ACA's 10th anniversary, Trump's line on 'Obamacare' grows murky

On the ACA's 10th anniversary, "Obamacare" is effective, popular, and necessary. Trump doesn't appear to care.
Image: A sign on an insurance store advertises Obamacare in San Ysidro
A sign on an insurance store advertises Obamacare in San Ysidro, San Diego, California, U.S.Mike Blake / Reuters file
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By Steve Benen

Exactly 10 years ago today, then-President Barack Obama put his signature on one of the most important domestic policy measures in a generation, making the Affordable Care Act law. Though it hasn't been smooth sailing -- politically, legally, logistically -- the policy known as "Obamacare" is working quite well and it's "as popular as it has ever been."

Its future, however, remains ... murky. The Supreme Court will soon hear yet another Republican challenge to the health care reform law, with the White House and its allies urging the justices to tear down the ACA in its entirety. That said, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday that the Trump administration is nevertheless eyeing a new enrollment period for people to sign up for coverage in light of the coronavirus crisis.

At least nine states that run their own exchanges where people can go to buy health coverage have said they would let people obtain coverage under the ACA even though the enrollment season has passed. But most states rely on the federal government to run their exchanges and need approval to initiate a special sign-up period. A decision to open enrollment could boost the number of people with coverage because 32 states rely solely on the federal exchange.

Oh. So on the one hand, Team Trump is trying eliminate the Affordable Care Act, while on the other hand, Team Trump is open to making it easier for people to enroll for health coverage through the Affordable Care Act.

It was against this backdrop that a reporter asked Donald Trump a good question yesterday: "Your administration is backing a lawsuit to invalidate the Affordable Care Act. Given that people are losing their jobs now and need health care more than ever would you consider rethinking your position on that?"

The president answered, "[W]hat we want to do is get rid of the bad health care and put in a great health care." He then lied about the Republican Party "fully backing pre-existing conditions."

What a mess. On the ACA's 10th anniversary, Trump sees a policy landscape in which "Obamacare" is effective, popular, and necessary. It's against this backdrop that his administration is simultaneously interested in expanding access to coverage through the Affordable Care Act and tearing down the law altogether, replacing it with an alternative he cannot identify.