President Donald Trump made headlines Thursday when he tweeted that he doesn’t have any tapes to document what he said to former FBI Director James Comey.
But regarding the other big news of the day — the future of the nation’s health care system — there are plenty of recordings that convey exactly what he said about his plans for health care. Trump repeatedly promised that he wouldn’t cut Medicaid, and that his plan would provide coverage for all, with cheaper and better policies than Americans can get now. His promise to repeal and replace Obamacare while also touting “coverage for all” had a unique resonance.
But that is not going to happen. The health care bill unveiled Thursday by the Senate exposed his promises as lies.
The Senate’s bill, largely the same as the American Health Care Act passed by the House of Representatives, and Trump’s support for both, make that clear. These bills would decimate Medicaid with more than $800 billion in spending cuts over a decade, weaken the Medicare trust fund, and leave tens of millions more people without insurance than under current law. They would drive up prices for older consumers, and sicker ones, and those who need the kind of comprehensive policies Obamacare made mandatory.
Trump has wavered in his reaction to the bills. He held a huge party to celebrate the House’s passage of the AHCA in May, but recently called it “mean, mean, mean.”
Trump’s problem is that these bills are a tax cut for the wealthy masquerading as a health care reform. According to the rules the Senate must use to pass the bill with a bare majority, the health care part will have to be “mean” to poor people for Trump to afford the huge tax gift he wants to give to rich people. To pass the bill in the Senate with 51 votes rather than the usual 60-vote requirement, it must reduce the deficit. But the 3.8 percent tax cut to the wealthy that these bills create would explode the deficit.
These tax cuts wouldn’t help the economy, because they would mostly go to people who don’t need to spend the extra money. But the health care spending cuts to offset the tax cuts would devastate the economy, particularly in New York, costing patients their coverage, health care workers their jobs, and nursing homes and medical facilities significant revenue. Even worse, a New York-specific amendment would take away an extra $2.3 billion in annual Medicaid money from the state.
Trump can side with the House and Senate plans to cut taxes for wealthy Americans, the ones who’ve captured nearly every penny of increased wealth in this nation of late. Or, he can insist on real reform and side with struggling Americans to whom he promised better things.
The cynicism driving this legislation is revolting. The Senate bill would postpone the draconian Medicaid cuts to 2021, a year later than the House. Perhaps the reason is that nine GOP senators from states that took the more generous Medicaid benefits that this legislation would end are up for re-election in 2020, as is Trump.
The senators must fear that people won’t be fooled once the consequences of the president’s betrayal actually hit home. — The editorial board