During the State of the Union address, President Donald Trump is sure to bolster his self-proclaimed accomplishments on a wide range of topics, including health care. Chances are, he will not propose any policies to lower health care costs and expand coverage for Mainers. Instead, he will likely repeat his hollow and never delivered promises on health care, as he has been doing since the beginning of his presidential campaign.
Trump and his team are already in deep trouble when it comes to health care this year. Last month, Trump lashed out at his own Department of Health and Human Services secretary because of polling showing that the administration’s health care policies are wildly unpopular among voters. He seems to be frustrated and desperate and will say, but not do, what Mainers need, want and deserve when it comes to fixing health care.
During Trump’s presidency, there has been a huge spike in drug prices. His response? Give drug companies billions of dollars in tax breaks and oppose giving Medicare the authority to negotiate lower drug prices — the most effective solution to this problem. Though Trump has stated that “drug prices are coming down, first time in 51 years because of my administration,” the truth is that drug companies have continued to consistently raise their prices and reap massive profits throughout his presidential term.
In response, Democrats have drafted ambitious bills to try and lower drug costs. The president first praised and then opposed the bills, leaving them stuck with no GOP support. Meanwhile, Trump has repeatedly talked about lowering drug prices by tying drug costs in the U.S. to drug costs in other countries, but independent experts say this proposal may be ineffective.
On top of Trump’s refusal to lower drug prices, his administration and its Republican allies continue to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA). After trying, and failing, to repeal the ACA through legislation numerous times, Republicans are now focused on an ongoing federal lawsuit to overturn the landmark health care law. If the lawsuit is successful, 20 million Americans could lose their health insurance, and 135 million Americans with pre-existing conditions could lose access to care. In Maine that means 83,000 people could lose their insurance coverage, and 544,100 Mainers could be left without access to health care.
Incredulously, Trump still has the audacity to claim he “ saved” protections for those with pre-existing conditions, despite boasting about how his lawsuit would “ terminate” the ACA and its consumer protections.
As the partisan lawsuit to overturn the ACA made its way through the courts, Trump wasted no time finding other ways to undermine Americans’ health care. His administration championed junk insurance, claiming that it will expand coverage to more people. In reality, those plans allow insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. Expanding junk plans does nothing but harm Americans with pre-existing conditions who desperately need comprehensive coverage.
These vicious attacks on Americans with pre-existing conditions demonstrate exactly how little the president cares about providing health care to those in need. But that is not all: though Trump has promised that he and Republicans will “stand for protecting Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid,” as recently as late January, he signaled he will put slashing all of those benefits on the table in 2020 if re-elected.
Trump promised that his health care plan would cover everyone and claimed he is “far better” on health care than Democrats. But under his administration, attacks on the ACA have left 7 million Americans uninsured. Despite his many promises to release a “ phenomenal” health care plan, he has yet to produce one.
Polling has indicated that health care is a major topic of concern among voters and have also shown that Americans trust Democrats more than Republicans when it comes to devising health care plans. The State of the Union address should be an opportune time for a president to lay out a bold and expanded health care plan. However, with this president, voters should, and hopefully will, see past any empty promises he might make.
Thom Harnett of Gardiner represents District 83 in the Maine House of Representatives.