Earlier this week, President Trump delivered the annual State of the Union speech (see the transcript here). Here we provide a summary of some of the false and misleading statements concerning health care, along with the facts.
Statement 1: “I have also made an ironclad pledge to American families: We will always protect patients with pre-existing conditions.”
The New York Times appropriately labels this claim “false.” As noted by the Times:
The president has taken multiple steps to weaken or eliminate current protections for Americans with pre-existing health conditions. These efforts include legislation he championed, regulation his administration has finished, and a lawsuit the Justice Department is litigating that would declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.
Similarly, a Washington Post article fact-checking the speech elaborates on the lawsuit and other efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA):
In an ongoing court case, the Trump administration is supporting a total repeal of the Affordable Care Act — including its guarantee that patients can’t be denied coverage for preexisting conditions. Republicans in Congress tried for years to repeal the whole law. Trump has not presented a plan to cover the gaps in case the court challenge is successful. Moreover, he has promoted short-term plans (which he touted in his speech) that are not required to cover preexisting conditions.
Statement 2: “And we will always protect your Medicare and your Social Security. Always.”
According to an article in the New York Times, this statement is “misleading.” The Times notes:
Not only has President Trump failed to strengthen Medicare and Social Security, but the financial outlook for both trusts has not improved or worsened. That is at least partly the result of Mr. Trump’s tax law, which has left the Treasury Department to collect fewer taxes from Americans and, in turn, invest less money into each program. Last April, the government projected that Medicare funds would be depleted by 2026, three years earlier than estimated in 2017. The report noted that less money will flow into the fund because of low wages and lower taxes.
Just days earlier, as noted in a different article in the Times, the President suggested that he “would be willing to consider cuts to social safety-net programs like Medicare to reduce the federal deficit if he wins a second term, an apparent shift from his 2016 campaign promise to protect funding for such entitlements.”
Statement 3: “My Administration is also taking on the big pharmaceutical companies.”
As noted in this article from CNN, “Tackling the high cost of prescription drugs was one of Trump’s key campaign promises in 2016. And it’s been a main focus of his administration, though little has actually been done.”
In NPR’s fact check of the speech, they note:
Voters care a lot about America’s high prescription drug costs, but Congress seems to have reached a standstill on passing legislation to help bring them down. The bipartisan effort on the Senate side that Trump mentions here has not won over Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Until it does, its prospects for passage this year are not great. During this part of the speech, Democrats chanted “HR 3,” the sweeping bill on drug prices that passed the House in December but is very unlikely to pass in the Republican-controlled Senate.
In sum, the state of the union on health care remains under threat. In order to reverse this trend, we urge the Administration to, among other things, drop support of the lawsuit seeking to strike down the Affordable Care Act. We also urge the Senate to take up H.R. 3, which would reduce prescription drug costs and use the savings to expand Medicare coverage for all beneficiaries, not just those enrolled in private Medicare Advantage plans.
February 6, 2020 – D. Lipschutz