President Donald Trump told reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday that the Republican Party would soon be known as the “party of healthcare.” He reiterated that commitment in the Oval Office on Wednesday, claiming Republicans would have a health care plan that is “far better than Obamacare.”
Reporters were skeptical, for two reasons. One is that the Trump administration revealed Monday that it is siding with a lawsuit by Texas and other states that seeks to have all of Obamacare declared unconstitutional. The other reason is that Republicans failed to pass their own health care policy in 2017, thanks in part to a dramatic “thumbs-down” gesture by the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Nevertheless, Trump has now laid down the gauntlet — which some Republicans, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarty (R-CA), are not happy about.
Still, President Trump already has significant achievements on health care that can be summarized as follows: more choice, lower prices, life-saving drugs.
Here are the top ten.
1. Lower premiums. After the Obama administration oversaw massive double- and triple-digit annual increases in the price of Obamacare, the Trump administration has succeeded in stabilizing prices, which have decreased for many plans — contrary to what many experts predicted. Obamacare is still too expensive, and its deductibles far too high, but Trump fulfilled his campaign promise in 2016 to stop the massive premium increases under the policy.
2. Short-term plans. Obamacare eliminated many cheap, bare-bones, short-term health insurance plans favored by younger people, forcing them to pay huge premiums for coverage they did not need. Some of these plans are 80% cheaper than the cheapest Obamacare plan. President Trump signed an executive order, and promulgated new rules, that expand the length of these plans from three to 12 months, and allow them to be renewed for up to three years.
3. End to individual mandate. President Trump’s tax cut, signed into law in 2017, eliminated the requirement to purchase insurance — the most constitutionally objectionable part of Obamacare. That change saved individuals and families hundreds of dollars per year in IRS fines. And contrary to the predictions of critics, it did not result in the collapse of the system as a whole, as premiums dropped and more insurance providers participated in the system.
4. Group health plans across state lines. President Trump took a crucial step toward fulfilling the Republican promise of allowing people to buy insurance across state lines by signing an executive order in October 2017 that opened the door to employers in the same industry to pool their employees into common Associated Health Plans (AHPs) in different states. The result would be cheaper and better coverage for workers within those industries.
5. Choice for veterans. President Trump signed the VA MISSION Act in 2018, which passed with bipartisan support and expanded options for veterans to obtain health care in the private sector. Trump has also prioritized addressing backlogs within the Veterans Affairs system. His commitment to veterans and first responders is such that even left-wing comedian Jon Stewart acknowledged Trump was doing a good job for 9/11 responders.
6. “Right to try.” In May 2018, President Trump signed the “Right to Try” Act, which allows patients in desperate need to try new, experimental drugs that had not yet been approved by regulators. The law allowed patients to approach manufacturers directly, and limited their liability in the event the drugs did not work as hoped. In addition, the administration focusing on streamlining new drug approvals at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
7. Drug price information. President Trump has presided over the largest decline in drug prices in 46 years, and is proposing measures to lower them even further. In his 2019 State of the Union address, for example, he proposed “requir[ing] drug companies, insurance companies, and hospitals to disclose real prices to foster competition and bring costs way down.” He also proposed eliminating kickbacks to the middlemen in the prescription drug industry.
8. Opioids and fentanyl. The Obama administration failed to deal with the opioid epidemic, even declining to declare a national emergency to stop the proliferation of deadly fentanyl. In contrast, President Trump has made the fight against opioids and fentanyl a priority. His effort to build a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, and his administration’s tougher border enforcement, have also aimed to improve public health by stopping the drug flow.
9. Better administration. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office Wednesday that his administration is doing a better job of administering Obamacare than the Obama administration itself. One way it is doing so is through allowing the states greater flexibility in addressing their insurance markets ” rather than subscribing to the previous administration’s prescriptive one-size-fits-all approach,” wrote Medicare and Medicaid administrator Seema Verna.
10. Support for repeal. President Trump’s enduring commitment to repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a policy that actually works is crucial. The alternative is letting the government take over health care entirely, which Democrats are embracing in the “Medicare for All” policy — which would ban private insurance and limit access to experimental drugs, among other fatal flaws. If not for Trump, Republicans would have given up long ago.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.