Former President Barack Obama hit the campaign trail for Democratic nominee Joe Biden Tuesday and didn’t hold back what he thinks about Republicans’ lack of a health care plan.
Former President Barack Obama blasted Donald Trump for his efforts to rip health care away from millions of Americans amid a global pandemic on Wednesday, while also praising Democrat Joe Biden’s plans to expand access to health care.
Speaking in Philadelphia, Obama highlighted the effort by 18 Republican-led states—with the support of the Trump administration—to strike down the Affordable Care Act (ACA), in a case set to be heard by the US Supreme Court on November 10.
“They’re trying to dismantle your care in the Supreme Court as we speak as quickly as they can in the middle of a pandemic with nothing but empty promises to take its place,” Obama said.
On Thursday, Trump preemptively released footage from a 60 Minutes interview set to air on Sunday in which he said he would announce a “fully developed” and “great” plan “very soon” that would once again protect people with pre-existing conditions. But once again, he denied to elaborate how he would guarantee such protections.
In the same interview, Trump also said he wants to see the Supreme Court strike down the ACA.
“I hope that they end it,” he told CBS’ Lesley Stahl. “It’ll be so good if they end it.”
The ACA, which was Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment, provided more than 20 million Americans with health insurance and banned insurance companies from discriminating against or denying coverage to as many as 133 million people who live with pre-existing medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, and heart disease.
“It’s shameful. The idea that you would take healthcare away from people at the very moment where people need it most, what is the logic of that?” Obama wondered aloud. “There is no logic.”
He blasted Trump and the party for failing to provide an adequate replacement for the ACA, even as they’ve tried to repeal it at least 70 times over the past decade. In the nearly four years Trump has served as president, he has repeatedly promised to deliver a “terrific,” “phenomenal,” and “fantastic” plan to replace the ACA, but has yet to actually do so. He has also promised to protect pre-existing conditions and lower drug prices, but once again, has not delivered concrete proposals for how he would do it.
“They keep on promising, ‘We’re going to have a great replacement.’ They said, ‘It’s coming.’ It’s been coming in two weeks for the last 10 years. Where is it? Where is this great plan to replace Obamacare?” Obama asked. “They’ve had 10 years to do it. There is no plan. They’ve never had one. Instead they’ve attacked the Affordable Care Act at every turn, driving up costs, driving up the uninsured.”
After the ACA’s major measures went into effect in 2014, the uninsured rate among non-elderly Americans dropped dramatically from 17% to 10% by late 2016. But under Trump, that number has been rising, and the number of people who lack health insurance coverage has grown by 1.2 million since 2016.
That increase has come as the Trump administration has repeatedly tried to undermine the ACA. Since taking office in 2017, the Trump administration cut back on advertising and enrollment assistance for the healthcare marketplace, effectively repealed the ACA’s individual mandate, and promoted short-term “junk” insurance plans that offer little coverage and few protections as an alternative.
In contrast, Obama said, Biden and vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris would work to improve America’s health insurance system.
“Joe and Kamala will protect your health care and expand Medicare and make insurance more affordable for everybody,” Obama said.
Indeed, while Trump has worked relentlessly to end the ACA, Biden’s health care plan would build on and expand the law. Biden’s proposal would:
- Create a government-run health insurance option on the ACA exchange that would provide an alternative to private insurance plans and be available to everyone.
- Give more financial assistance to everyone buying coverage on the ACA marketplace by providing subsidies that cap monthly premiums at a maximum of 8.5% of income, rather than the roughly 10% it is under the current law. Biden would also tie those subsidies to the higher-quality, gold-tier insurance plans rather than the silver policies, which would help reduce deductibles and out-of-pocket costs for patients.
- Lower the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 60, allowing an estimated 20 million more Americans to enroll in Medicare.
- Automatically enroll uninsured, low-income Americans in either the public option or in Medicaid, depending on whether they live in a state that expanded Medicaid under the ACA. These enrollees would face no or low premium costs and co-pays.
- Allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, which would reduce drug prices, and create an independent commission to monitor and regulate the prices of new drugs. He would also limit the initial cost of new drugs that face no competition and let patients buy prescription drugs from other countries, which could drive down drug prices in the US.
- Stop surprise billing by banning providers from charging patients out-of-network rates when the patient doesn’t have control over which provider they see.
- Expand access to contraception and restore funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides women with critical reproductive health care.
Biden also wants to expand access to mental healthcare, spend $775 billion to expand child and elder care options, create a public health job corps of more than 100,000 people to help prevent diseases in medically underserved communities, and train 35,000 workers to help Americans struggling with opioid addictions.
Trump, meanwhile, hasn’t laid out a tangible healthcare agenda of any kind. Instead, he’s continued to say he wants to overturn the ACA.