Another Trump lie: Health care

Jesse L. Jackson Sr. | 4/5/2019, 6 a.m.
Donald Trump’s madcap presidency is now seeking to strip 20 million Americans of their health care coverage. He has instructed ...

Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

Donald Trump’s madcap presidency is now seeking to strip 20 million Americans of their health care coverage. He has instructed the U.S. Justice Department to join the lawsuit seeking to declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. He then proclaimed that Republicans would offer a far better alternative, tweeting they’ll become the “Party of Great Health Care.” 

Only there is no plan.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, wants nothing to do with trying to develop one. Confusion reigns. This grotesque misrule might be funny were it not putting millions of people at risk. President Trump has taken his animus against all things Obama to new heights in his obsessive drive to repeal or disembowel the Affordable Care Act.

After the Republican Senate rejected repeal of the ACA — feeding President Trump’s disdain for the late U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who cast the determining vote — President Trump’s administration has sought to undermine the act administratively. Seven million fewer people now have health care coverage since President Trump was elected. Now he hopes to have the courts repeal the act.

That would end the expansion of Medicaid, which covers more than 10 million low-wage workers and their families. (About 400,000 Virginians became eligible for Medicaid on Jan. 1, when the health care program finally was expanded in the Commonwealth.) Eliminating the ACA would repeal the requirement that insurance companies cover people with pre-existing conditions — putting anyone who is ill now and covered under the ACA at risk. It would repeal the provision allowing young people to be covered under their parents’ health insurance plans to age 26.

Once more, insurance companies would be free to enforce lifetime limits on coverage, putting the most vulnerable at risk. President Trump adds insult to this injury by proclaiming the big lie — that Republicans have or will have a plan that will cover more and be less expensive.

But there is no plan. Trump aides say it will be developed in the Senate. Sen. McConnell, who rules Senate Republicans with a tight fist, says, “I look forward to seeing what the president is proposing and what he can work out with the speaker.” 

When asked if the two committees tasked with overseeing health care would come up with a plan, Sen. Charles Grassley responded tersely with a “no.” Scrambling to put a cover on his barefaced lie, President Trump announced that Sen. Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, would join with a couple of other senators to come up with a “spectacular” plan. 

This is like naming Al Capone to design the tax code. In the 1990s, Sen. Scott was the chief executive officer of Columbia/HCA. He resigned in 1997, the same year the FBI announced an investigation of the company for massive Medicare fraud. In the end, Columbia/HCA pleaded guilty to systematic fraud — featuring false billing of Medicare on a breathtaking scale. The company pleaded guilty to 14 corporate felonies and paid some $1.7 billion in criminal fines and penalties in what the U.S. Justice Department called the “largest health care fraud case in U.S. history.”

No doubt, if Sen. Scott were to come up with a plan, it would be “spectacular” for the money guys and savage for those in need of care. 

On health care, President Trump’s lies are dangerous to life. The United States is the only advanced industrial country that does not provide universal health care as a right. We are paying almost twice per capita as other countries with worse health care results.

Meanwhile, the insurance companies, the drug companies and the private hospital complexes rake in fortunes. What should be done is clear. The U.S. government should negotiate with drug companies to force lower prices for prescription drugs. Medicare should be strengthened and then extended to cover more people in stages. Cover those up to 30 and those 55 and older in the first stage. And then over the years, perfect and extend the program to cover all. Pay for it by requiring the rich and the corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. We’d end up paying less and getting better coverage. 

President Trump believes that if you tell a big lie over and over and over again, pretty soon people will begin to believe it. His political debut was the big lie about former President Obama’s birth certificate. He has done the same with his racist rants on immigrants and the border wall. Now he plans the same big lie technique on health care — posturing as a champion of the people when he’s defending big money interests. The real deal is clear: The rich get a tax cut; the poor get a health care cut.

The writer is founder and president of the national Rainbow PUSH Coalition.