WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump isn’t playing it straight when it comes to his campaign pledge not to undercut health coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
Five weeks before midterm elections, he is telling voters that those provisions “are safe,” even as his Justice Department is arguing in court that those protections in the Affordable Care Act should fall. The short-term health plans Trump often promotes as a bargain alternative to “Obamacare” offer no guarantee of covering pre-existing conditions.
A look at the rhetoric and the facts behind it:
TRUMP: “I will always fight for and always protect patients with pre-existing conditions … We’ll do it the right way, too. Pre-existing conditions are safe, OK? Just remember that.” – West Virginia rally Saturday.
THE FACTS: That’s not what his Justice Department says. Government attorneys told a court in June that they will no longer defend key parts of Obamacare, including provisions that guarantee access to health insurance regardless of any medical conditions. Attorney General Jeff Sessions explained in a letter to Congress that Trump, who campaigned on repealing the law and nearly did so his first year in office, approved the legal strategy.
The decision was a rare departure from DOJ’s custom of defending federal laws in court, even if the administration in power does not like them. It came after Texas and other Republican-led states sued to strike down the entire law because Congress repealed a provision that people without health insurance must pay a fine. Texas says that without the fine in place the individual mandate is unconstitutional and that the entire law should be struck down.
The Trump administration said it won’t defend the individual mandate or provisions shielding people with medical conditions from being denied coverage or charged higher premiums. But it said the rest of the law, including Medicaid expansion, can remain.
Obamacare requires insurers to take all applicants, regardless of medical history, and patients with health problems pay the same standard premiums as healthy ones. Bills supported last year by Trump and congressional Republicans to repeal the law could have pushed up costs for people with pre-existing conditions.