Health care claim com­busts

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Politifact - Louis Jacobson

Democrats across the coun­try have been say­ing on the cam­paign trail that the Repub­li­cans’ long­stand­ing push to over­turn the Af­ford­able Care Act threat­ens in­surance pro­tec­tions for Amer­i­cans with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions.

The law was passed in 2010 by a Demo­cratic-con­trolled Congress and signed by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama; no Repub­li­can voted for it.

Repub­li­cans used pop­u­lar dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the law to make sig­nif­i­cant con­gres­sional gains in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elec­tions, but the pat­tern has shifted in 2018, af­ter un­suc­cess­ful Repub­li­can ef­forts to re­peal the law.

The Wesleyan Me­dia Project re­cently found that health care was the most com­mon sub­ject of Demo­cratic con­gres­sional cam­paign ads, the New York Times re­ported.

But in a rally in Rochester, Minn., on Oct. 4, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump sought to flip this nar­ra­tive on its head. He ar­gued that it’s ac­tu­ally the Repub­li­cans who are the cham­pi­ons of pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tion pro­tec­tions, and Democrats who are try­ing to kill them.

“We will al­ways pro­tect Amer­i­cans with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions,” Trump said. “We’re go­ing to take care of them. Some of the Democrats have been talking about end­ing pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions. And some peo­ple have — you know what I say? We’ll get a lit­tle more money from China. It’ll be just fine. It’ll be just fine. We’ll be just fine.”

We have pre­vi­ously writ­ten that a pend­ing law­suit against the Af­ford­able Care Act by Repub­li­can at­tor­neys gen­eral would, if suc­cess­ful, end pro­tec­tions for pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions.

(Such pro­tec­tions could be re­in­stated by new leg­is­la­tion if the courts do strike down the law, but health pol­icy

ex­perts say the mechanics of achiev­ing this re­sult in a way dif­fer­ent from the Af­ford­able Care Act would be tricky; the decades-long fight to pro­tect pa­tients with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions does not pro­vide much op­ti­mism for a quick leg­isla­tive fix.)

For its part, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has de­cided not de­fend the law against the at­tor­ney gen­er­als’ suit, ef­fec­tively sid­ing with those who want to over­turn the law.

The se­cond part of Trump’s as­ser­tion, how­ever, was new to us. Is he right that “some of the Democrats have been talking about end­ing pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions”?

We found zero ev­i­dence of this. For starters, Trump’s as­ser­tion is il­log­i­cal given the Democrats’ role in pass­ing the law and Demo­cratic ef­forts to ham­mer Repub­li­can can­di­dates over pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tion pro­tec­tions on the cam­paign trail.

Drew Ham­mill, a spokesman for House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said there is no such chat­ter among Demo­cratic of­fice­hold­ers or

can­di­dates.

We also asked in­de­pen­dent health­pol­icy ex­perts whether they had heard any Demo­cratic mes­sages — or even whis­pers — about get­ting rid of pre­ex­ist­ing con­di­tion pro­tec­tions. They said they had not.

“I find Pres­i­dent Trump’s com­ments sur­pris­ing,” said Chris­tine Eib­ner, a health pol­icy spe­cial­ist at the Rand Corp.

“I can’t think of any,” said Gail Wilen­sky, who headed Medi­care and Med­i­caid un­der Pres­i­dent George H.W. Bush.

“No — how bad can this (rhetoric) get?” asked John Ho­la­han, a health pol­icy spe­cial­ist at the Ur­ban In­sti­tute.

“Un­be­liev­able,” said Linda Blum­berg, who also stud­ies health pol­icy at the Ur­ban In­sti­tute. “No.”

The White House did not re­ply to an in­quiry seek­ing ex­am­ples. Nei­ther did the of­fice of the Se­nate ma­jor­ity leader or the House speaker.

Our rul­ing

Trump said, “Some of the Democrats have been talking about end­ing (cov­er­age for) pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions.”

We can’t find any ex­am­ples of what Trump claimed Democrats were say­ing. A Demo­cratic pro­posal to end pre­ex­ist­ing con­di­tions would run 100 per­cent counter to Democrats’ own his­tory with the Af­ford­able Care Act and would un­der­cut one of the Democrats’ most pow­er­ful mes­sages on the cam­paign trail this year.

We rate the state­ment Pants on Fire.

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