Even stranger was the content of Trump’s statement. There was laughter and gaiety, but the president said literally almost nothing about what is in the bill or who would benefit from it. Here are all the parts of his remarks that touched on policy:
As far as I’m concerned, your premiums, they’re going to start to come down. We’re going to get this passed through the Senate. I feel so confident. Your deductibles, when it comes to deductibles, they were so ridiculous that nobody got to use their current plan—this nonexistent plan that I heard so many wonderful things about over the last three or four days. After that, I mean, it’s—I don’t think you’re going to hear so much....
And I think, most importantly, yes, premiums will be coming down. Yes, deductibles will be coming down. But very importantly, it’s a great plan. And ultimately, that’s what it’s all about.
So, in sum: Trump says that the bill will reduce deductibles and reduce premiums. In fact, for most Americans, both of these statements may well be false. Because the CBO has not yet scored the current version of the bill, it’s hard to tell, but in its previous version, AHCA was set to jack up premiums and deductibles overall.
Most of what Trump said was a simple celebration of winning: “A lot of people said, how come you kept pushing health care, knowing how tough it is? Don’t forget, Obamacare took 17 months. Hillary Clinton tried so hard—really valiantly, in all fairness, to get health care through. Didn’t happen. We’ve really been doing this for eight weeks, if you think about it. And this is a real plan. This is a great plan. And we had no support from the other party.”
Of course, the reason it only took eight weeks is that the bill is held together with duct tape and spit. That’s also the reason Trump isn’t talking about the substance of the bill in his remarks. First, he does not have a good handle on what’s actually in it, or even what it purports to do; second, it’s hard to make concrete statements about what it will do without a CBO score; and third, it doesn’t remotely resemble what he claimed during the campaign that his health-care plan would achieve.
Trump made a series of promises during the campaign. He said his plan would guarantee coverage for all people. He said there would be no cuts to Medicaid. He said no one would lose their coverage. He said costs would go down. And he insisted the protections guaranteeing coverage for people with preexisting conditions would remain in place. The House bill fails on every one of these counts.
Once again, the contrast with Obama is instructive. He cared deeply about winning on health care, pushing forward on the bill despite political costs. His chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, told staffers, “The only nonnegotiable principle here is success. Everything else is negotiable.” The law that became known as Obamacare was deeply flawed, as many Democrats now admit, and the party made a series of painful compromises to get a bill through.