IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Trump distances himself from 'universal coverage' health care vow

In 2017, universal coverage was at the heart of Trump's health care promises. In 2019, he's apparently changed his mind.
Image: US President Donald J. Trump participates in a health care discussion with House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady
US President Donald J. Trump participates in a health care discussion in the White House in Washington, DC , USA, 10 March 2017.

Donald Trump sat down with Fox News' Steve Hilton for an interview that aired last night, and the host managed to get the president to make a little news on health care. From the transcript as it appeared on Lexis-Nexis:

HILTON: You've got these senators working on a health care plan.TRUMP: Right, I do.HILTON: So Rick Scott and so on. In 2016, you said we're going to take care of everyone.TRUMP: Right.HILTON: People heard that to me you're for universal coverage.TRUMP: Oh, no, no.HILTON: Is that what you mean?TRUMP: No, no.

First, the idea that the president has Republicans senators "working on a health care plan" is not to be taken seriously. In fact, the opposite appears to be true: GOP leaders told the White House last month that Trump can present a plan if he wants, but there's no appetite for such action for the foreseeable future, especially with Democrats controlling the House.

Second, it's a bit odd to hear the president deny his intention in universal coverage, since it was one of the central pillars of his pitch on health care in the recent past.

"We're going to have insurance for everybody," Trump said the week before his inauguration. "There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can't pay for it, you don't get it. That's not going to happen with us." Around the same time, the Republican added, in reference to health care, "Everybody's going to be taken care of."

And yet, here we are two years later, watching Trump state his opposition to universal coverage.

Part of the problem may be that the president may not fully appreciate what "universal coverage" means. In last night's interview, he went on to stress the importance of private insurance, suggesting that Trump believes "universal coverage" refers to a single-payer model, as opposed to a system in which everyone's covered.

I say "suggested," because that's not what the president said explicitly. Rather, after rejecting the idea of universal coverage, Trump talked up private insurance before rambling a bit, and throwing around loosely connected talking points about the individual mandate and John McCain.

The exchange concluded with Hilton asking, "You're going to have a plan on that before the election?" Trump replied, "We're going to put out a plan pretty soon, actually."

That's extremely unlikely. In fact, Trump announced in early April that he was retreating on health care and pushing off action until 2021.