OPED: President Trump offers Medi-scare for all
Maybe Donald Trump really believes his hype about the “lying media.” That might explain why his effort to produce a commentary longer than a tweet contains enough falsehoods to have fact checkers working overtime.
His op-ed published Wednesday by USA Today mostly recycles old conservative attacks against government-run health care, spiced with a few new insults to slam proposals by some Democrats to expand Medicare to cover all Americans, not just seniors.
Trump and his fellow Republican leaders have tried to do the opposite. As Trump put it during his presidential campaign, he’d like to “repeal Obamacare and replace it with something terrific.”
Unfortunately, Republican lawmakers have not produced anything terrific enough to persuade even a consensus of fellow Republican lawmakers.
But the president doesn’t let a lack of facts, accuracy or new ideas get in the way of his effort to bash whatever the Dems have in mind.
His message: Be afraid.
“The Democrats’ plan … would mean the end of choice for seniors over their own health-care decisions,” Trump says at one point. “Instead, Democrats would give total power and control over seniors’ health care decisions to the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.”
That logic reminds me of the often-quoted senior at a South Carolina town hall meeting in 2009 who reportedly told then-Republican Rep. Bob Inglis to “keep your government hands off my Medicare.” Sorry, sir, but the government’s hands are all over this popular government health insurance program.
But that’s about how silly Trump sounds as he unearths tired anti-commie cliches and scary scenarios of Medicare being snatched away from hard-working seniors by “radical” Democrats promoting “open-borders socialism” as they “model America’s economy after (the socialized medicine in) Venezuela.”
I can understand why the president might be a little panicked as the November midterm elections approach. Democrats have embraced health care as a central campaign issue in response to public demand — and for the special joy of watching Republican candidates twist themselves into knots posing as protectors of programs they have repeatedly tried to shrink or destroy.
In fact, as those who have been paying attention should have noticed by now, it is congressional Republicans who have been trying repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act, popularly called Obamacare, despite their inability to agree on a replacement even among themselves — at a time when bipartisan agreement on much of anything has fallen out of style.
But, as much as the Grand Old Party might like to duck and dodge the issue, voters who are facing rising health care costs and fading access to coverage haven’t forgotten.
The latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, for example, finds 81 percent of voters think health care is “most important” or “very important” for candidates to discuss. That’s a virtual tie with the other leader on the list: “corruption in Washington.” The swamp is not drained, Mr. President.
The poll also found that 4 in 10 Americans are “very worried” that they or a family member will lose coverage if the Supreme Court overturns the ACA’s pre-existing conditions protections, a concern that crosses party lines even when our political leaders don’t.
One of Obamacare’s most popular — and costly — features is its coverage for the estimated 52 million people, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, who have a pre-existing condition that would have led to a denial of insurance in the individual market before the ACA came along.
The “Medicare for All” plan was proposed last year by Vermont’s independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose failed presidential campaign as a Democrat helped to reignite national interest in a “Medicare for all” system.
Trump correctly cites studies that estimate the “Medicare for all” idea would add $32.6 trillion in costs to the federal government over 10 years. But the president leaves out the Sanders argument that costs of the program would shrink over time, along with overall national health expenditures.
And lawmakers in both parties have other proposals that are worth debating, none of which call for the United States to imitate Venezuela.
But instead of engaging the debate honestly, President Trump turns to name-calling and falsehoods to spread Medi-scare scenarios of devilish Democrats. He’s entitled to his opinion — and I’m entitled to hold my nose while I read it.
— Clarence Page is a member of the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board. Readers may send him email at email@example.com.