Already in a health care ditch, Trump gets shovel, keeps digging

Trump's health care comments to "60 Minutes" were a mess. His related rhetoric during the presidential debate wasn't any better.
Image: Pedro Rojas holds a sign directing people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare
A sign directs people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in Miami in 2015.Joe Raedle / Getty Images file

After Donald Trump released a video of his unaired "60 Minutes" interview, the president found himself with a new, self-imposed problem: viewers saw Trump say it'd "be so good" if the Supreme Court destroyed the Affordable Care Act, which is a politically problematic argument, especially during a pandemic.

Pressed by CBS News' Lesley Stahl for his replacement plan, the Republican struggled badly to answer even the most basic questions.

In last night's presidential debate, Trump kept digging.

He began by arguing that the ACA "is in court because Obamacare is no good." In reality, the Affordable Care Act is working well; it's more popular than the president who hopes to destroy it, and it's in court because a group of Republicans filed a transparently ridiculous lawsuit against it. Trump nevertheless went on to say:

"Pre-existing conditions will always stay. What I would like to do is a much better health care, much better. We'll always protect people with pre-existing. So I'd like to terminate Obamacare, come up with a brand new, beautiful health care."

Right off the bat, the idea that the president "will always" support protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions is absurd: Trump is right now supporting Republican litigation that intends to eliminate those protections altogether.

But taking a step further, when a president says he wants to tear down his own country's existing health care system, he needs to do more than offer vague assurances about "a brand new, beautiful health care" system that would be "much better." He needs to actually back that up with some kind of plan.

And that's where Trump keeps failing. As we discussed yesterday, the Republican has spent literally years telling Americans he has a terrific health care plan, which will deliver better results at a lower cost, and this reform miracle is nearly ready for its unveiling.

It still doesn't exist. Indeed, when the Trump White House and GOP lawmakers tried to repeal and replace the ACA in 2017, they failed spectacularly, in large part because their regressive plan was neither "beautiful" nor "better" than the existing system.

But that was just the start. As recently as last month, the president went so far as to boast, in reference to his non-existent health care plan, "I have it all ready. I have it all ready.... I have it all ready." The president used similar rhetoric three months ago, promising Fox News he'd "sign" a "full and complete" health care plan "within two weeks."

Late last month, the president claimed he was unveiling a "plan" to improve health care and to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions, but what Trump actually signed were some executive orders that literally didn't do anything.

In his "60 Minutes" interview, the incumbent conceded that he hasn't yet presented a health care blueprint, but it's "going to be announced very soon." Hours after the public saw this, Trump told a national audience he wants to "terminate" the popular and effective law, and eventually "come up with" something else.

If the president expects a significant number of voters to believe him, he's likely to be disappointed.