President Donald Trump told CBS News’ John Dickerson in an interview airing Sunday that all Americans with preexisting conditions will continue to receive healthcare coverage under his Obamacare replacement plan, the American Healthcare Act. This comes in stark contrast to the actual text of the bill currently being proposed and negotiated within the GOP-led House, a recent amendment to which says that individual states can choose to opt-out of essential provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the very ones which enable those with preexisting conditions to get insured.
To be generous, the transcript of Dickerson and Trump’s conversation on CBS’s Face the Nation is something of a rambling mess. It’s loaded full of interruptions, cross-talk, and instances where the president seems wholly unaware, unwilling, or unable to discuss even basic details of his own top legislative priority.
Specifically, when Dickerson repeatedly asked Trump whether his supporters would stand to benefit from the passage of the AHCA and whether he’d be keeping his promise to ensure preexisting conditions coverage, Trump insisted both that the bill already did and that it ultimately would.
“Preexisting conditions are in the bill,” Trump said. “And I just watched another network than yours, and they were saying, ‘Preexisting is not covered.’ Preexisting conditions are in the bill. And I mandate it. I said, ‘Has to be.’”
Contrary to Trump’s assertion, the current bill—dubbed “Trumpcare” by many—does not protect people with preexisting conditions. In fact, allowing states to remove Obamacare’s preexisting conditions standards is one of the tweaks to the bill put in place to try to win the support of the House’s die-hard conservative Freedom Caucus, the far-right faction which helped scuttle the bill the last time around.
Would the @WhiteHouse staff please mind showing him the actual AHCA plan? It raises premiums, deductibles & removes pre-ex protections. https://t.co/MUweXZpjeS
— Andy Slavitt (@ASlavitt) April 30, 2017
In essence, Trump is promising that a core piece of the ongoing negotiations to get the bill passed won’t happen. According to CBS News’s transcript, Trump also falsely asserted that Obamacare is currently “dead” and that people with preexisting conditions don’t get coverage from it.
“But when I watch some of the news reports, which are so unfair, and they say we don’t cover preexisting conditions, we cover it beautifully,” Trump said. “… I’ll tell you who doesn’t cover preexisting conditions. Obamacare. You know why? It’s dead.
The contradiction in Trump’s statements didn’t elude Dickerson, who continued pressing the president for more clarity on the apparent contradictions with reality in his statements.
“So, what I hear you saying is preexisting is going to be in there for everybody,” Dickerson said. “It’s not going to be left up to the states.”
“Preexisting is going to be in there,” Trump replied.
Either a) he is tearing up the Meadows-MacArthur deal or b) he doesn’t understand the state of play on this issue https://t.co/MBdNG6bsEZ
— Trip Gabriel (@tripgabriel) April 30, 2017
Ultimately, Dickerson extracted a guarantee from Trump that the bill would protect the ability of people with preexisting conditions to get covered, regardless of where in the country they live. That likely comes as a surprise to the Freedom Caucus, which is currently being wooed by the party establishment with the promise of the precise opposite—that the states can opt to allow insurance companies to charge absolutely prohibitive premiums to such people, effectively forcing them out of the healthcare system altogether.
Whether Trump is speaking from a place of ignorance on the matter, being willfully deceptive, or sending an ultimatum to the House about what the bill should look like, these comments could have major implications for the legislation going forward.