- The Washington Times - Monday, January 13, 2020

Goaded by a 2020 rival, President Trump threw health care back into the spotlight Monday by falsely claiming he “saved” a popular part of Obamacare and promising to offer the best-ever health coverage if voters back him in November.

In a series of tweets, Mr. Trump said if Republicans take back the House, “your healthcare, that I have now brought to the best place in many years, will become the best ever, by far. I will always protect your Pre-Existing Conditions, the Dems will not!”

Mr. Trump returned to the theme later in the day, tweeting while en route to Louisiana: “I stand stronger than anyone in protecting your Healthcare with Pre-Existing Conditions.”

Democrats were astounded, saying Mr. Trump lacks credibility after his 2017 effort to repeal Obamacare and his decision to back a lawsuit that threatens the law in its entirety, including its protections for sicker Americans.

Blue states want the Supreme Court to resolve that case by the summer, so Mr. Trump cannot rely on vague promises as he attacks Democrats over single-payer and other big-government ideas on the campaign trail.

Mr. Trump revived the Obamacare wars as part of a swipe at former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who is self-funding his Democratic presidential bid and attacking the president’s record on health care as part of an ad blitz.

The president rolled out a new nickname for his fellow billionaire — “Mini Mike” — and claimed that he “was the person who saved Pre-Existing Conditions in your Healthcare,” adding, “you have it now.”

Mr. Trump, however, has taken steps to erode protections that were written into President Obama’s signature health law in 2010.

House Republicans approved a bill in 2017 — Mr. Trump’s first year in office — that would have allowed states to opt out of rules requiring insurers to charge people with pre-existing conditions the same price as healthy people. Mr. Trump celebrated the bill’s passage with House Republicans at the White House, though the repeal-and-replace effort stalled in the Senate.

Since then, Mr. Trump has expanded the availability of “short-term plans” that do not have to cover preexisting conditions, while rooting for the state-driven lawsuit that could kill off Obamacare.

“Wasn’t there some sort of dramatic vote in the Senate about this? And like a lawsuit of some sort?” Sen. Brian Schatz, Hawaii Democrat, tweeted in a wry response to Mr. Trump.

Mr. Bloomberg said he was “glad to see” Mr. Trump caught his TV ads.

“I know management isn’t your strong suit, so perhaps you don’t know your Justice Department supports a suit that would undermine protections for pre-existing conditions,” Mr. Bloomberg tweeted. “Now that you know, why not ask them to drop the suit?”

Heading into 2020, much of Mr. Trump’s focus has been on Democratic proposals that would call for a pricey single-payer system, as he tries to put the 2017 repeal failure behind him and claim credit for stabilizing premiums in the Obamacare marketplace and offering cheaper coverage options for healthier Americans.

The White House on Monday said Mr. Trump is focused on improving health outcomes across the board.

“The administration is working to implement the president’s policies and improve the American health care system for everyone, not just those in the individual market,” said deputy press secretary Judd Deere.

Mr. Trump flirted with plans to outline a full Obamacare replacement ahead of the campaign season, but so far he hasn’t released a plan.

In his Monday tweets, Mr. Trump reminded followers that Republicans were able to gut the most unpopular part of Obamacare — the “individual mandate” requiring people to get covered or pay a tax.

Yet killing the penalty sparked a state-driven lawsuit that says the rest of Obamacare must fall with the mandate, including protections for preexisting conditions and its expansion of Medicaid insurance for the poor.

A federal appeals court recently said the mandate is no longer constitutional, though ordered a lower court to figure out which other parts of the law should be struck down with it.

The president says a ruling in favor of the red states attacking Obamacare will clear the decks for a better health care program.

His administration isn’t in a hurry, however.

Last week it told the Supreme Court it shouldn’t take up the case on an expedited basis, effectively moving to punt thorny decisions until after the election.

For now, Mr. Trump is focused on the 2020 Democratic field. His attacks on Mr. Bloomberg were part of a string of tweets about Sen. Cory Booker’s decision to drop out of the primary and an emerging feud between progressive senators Bernard Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

The president complained that “Mini Mike Bloomberg is spending a lot of money on False Advertising.”

“While the radical left has sweeping proposals for a total government takeover of healthcare that will eliminate private insurance for 180 million Americans,” Mr. Deere said, “the Trump administration has achieved real solutions, including eliminating the individual mandate, enacting Right-to-Try, advancing kidney health, approving more generic drugs than ever before, and much more, that are providing Americans with the options and control they want and the affordability they need.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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