President Trump published an op-ed in Wednesday’s USA Today, warning in dire language of the consequences of Democrats’ Medicare-for-all proposals. “Democrats would gut Medicare with their planned government takeover of American health care,” Trump says.
The problem: Nearly every line of Trump’s piece “contained a misleading statement or a falsehood,” writes Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler.
We’ll provide a few examples below, but for a more complete analysis of Trump’s problematic, misleading or outright false claims, read Kessler’s piece or this Associated Press fact-check of claims the president has made in recent speeches at campaign rallies.
Why it matters: Trump’s op-ed and other recent criticisms of Democratic health-care proposals echo other GOP attacks claiming that Medicare for all would destroy traditional Medicare. Combined, they read less like a serious policy critique and more like cynical scare tactics — a ploy to muddy the waters around an idea that’s growing in popularity but still poorly defined in voters’ minds.
“There definitely are serious questions about ‘Medicare for All,’ including the massive tax increases that would be needed to pay for it and longstanding differences in society about the proper function of government,” the AP piece notes. Trump’s attacks skirt those serious questions, and differences of opinions among Democrats on Medicare for all, in favor of false or misleading campaign-style attacks.
Will it work? It very well might, at least in the short run. But at the Washington Examiner, Philip Klein critiques Trump’s line of attack from the right, arguing that it “will backfire on conservatives in the long run and actually make socialized healthcare more likely. … By perpetuating the idea that Medicare is a great program that needs to be protected at all costs (rather than an unsustainable entitlement) it only makes it easier for liberals to make the case for socialized medicine. It also makes it harder to make the case for overhauling entitlement programs to avert the looming debt crisis.”
The four key fact checks:
* “Dishonestly called ‘Medicare for All,’ the Democratic proposal would establish a government-run, single-payer health care system that eliminates all private and employer-based health care plans and would cost an astonishing $32.6 trillion during its first 10 years.”
The facts: There are numerous “Medicare for all” proposals. Some would eliminate private and employer-based plans in favor of a single federally run health insurance program, but others would introduce a public plan option alongside existing private coverage choices. A new Kaiser Family Foundation report provides a useful overview of eight different legislative proposals introduced in the current session of Congress.
Trump is right that studies, like the one he links to by the libertarian Mercatus Center, have estimated that Bernie Sanders’ plan would add more than $30 trillion to federal health care costs. Proponents of a single-payer system argue that those price tags simply represent a shift in spending from the private to the public sector — a change, they say, that will wring costs out of the system overall while also providing for universal coverage.
* “As a candidate, I promised that we would protect coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions and create new health care insurance options that would lower premiums. I have kept that promise, and we are now seeing health insurance premiums coming down.”
The facts: Trump’s Justice Department argued in an ongoing Texas court case that Obamacare’s protections for patients with pre-existing conditions should be invalidated, and his administration has pushed insurance options that could weaken such protections. Trump’s claim about premiums coming down applies only to benchmark Obamacare plans, and is based on recent comments by HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Experts say that Obamacare premiums are stabilizing in 2019, but would have fallen if not for Trump administration policies. Meanwhile, premiums for employer-provided insurance, by far the most common type in the U.S., are still rising.
* “I also made a solemn promise to our great seniors to protect Medicare. That is why I am fighting so hard against the Democrats’ plan that would eviscerate Medicare.”
The facts: “Under Trump, the date for when the Medicare Hospital Insurance (Part A) Trust fund will be depleted keeps advancing,” Kessler notes. “If the trust fund is depleted, that means the government would not be able to cover 100 percent of estimated expenses. Yet because of Trump’s tax cut, the budget deficit is soaring even as the economy is booming, in contrast to previous periods of under-4-percent unemployment. That leaves the government less prepared to deal with the consequences of baby-boom retirements.”
* “The Democrats’ plan means that after a life of hard work and sacrifice, seniors would no longer be able to depend on the benefits they were promised.”
The facts: Not true. None of the plans would cut benefits for seniors, and the most frequently cited promises to be more generous. “The Sanders plan would be a fundamental change, expanding Medicare to cover almost everyone in the country,” the Associated Press notes. “But current Medicare recipients would get improved benefits. Sanders would eliminate Medicare deductibles, limit copays, and provide coverage for dental and vision care, as well as hearing aids. A House single-payer bill calls for covering long-term care.”