In an interview with “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace on July 19, President Trump said that he would be “signing a health-care plan within two weeks, a full and complete health-care plan.” Two weeks have come and gone and Trump hasn’t released let alone signed a “full and complete health-care plan,” of course. There’s no indication that the administration has such a comprehensive plan.
Trump reiterated that a plan was coming in an exchange with reporters on Friday, The Washington Post reports: “We’re going to be doing a health-care plan. We’re going to be doing a very inclusive health-care plan. I’ll be signing it sometime very soon,” he said. When a reporter noted Trump’s earlier comments that he’d sign a plan in two weeks, Trump added: “Might be Sunday. But it’s going to be very soon.” On Monday afternoon, he said the plan will come "hopefully prior to the end of the month."
Sen. Lindsey Graham told the Post that Trump’s plan would actually be a “fairly comprehensive” executive order. But as the Post points out, an executive order, even a broad one, would fall short of the full and complete plan Trump said is on the way.
As numerous analysts and commentators have noted, Trump’s failure to produce such a health-care plan continues a pattern of unfulfilled policy promises. “The truth is, when Trump is stumped, he likes to throw out promises of big policy initiatives — his infrastructure push, for instance — that always seem to be just two weeks away,” Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty writes. “They are mirages. His assumption is that people will just forget about them as they choke on the dust cloud of distraction that he kicks up every day.”
“Infrastructure week” may have become a Washington, D.C., punchline, but those empty promises may be most noticeable — and most meaningful to the American public — when it comes to health care.
“President Trump has repeatedly vowed to repeal the ACA and is urging the Supreme Court to overturn it. He has never offered a replacement plan,” Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan nonprofit, said in a tweet Sunday. “His latest budget includes a vision for reform with few details that would cut federal health spending by $844 billion over a decade.”
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany noted in a statement to the Post that Trump had issued four executive orders on drug prices last month and that there will be “more action” ahead. The president, she said, “continues to act in delivering better and cheaper health care, protecting Americans with preexisting conditions, lowering prescription drug costs, and defending the right of Americans to keep their doctors and plans of their choice.” Trump was expected to sign another executive order Monday afternoon aimed at improving health care and telemedicine in rural areas.
But, as the Post’s Anne Gearan, Amy Goldstein and Seung Min Kim suggest, Trump’s repeated promises of a broader Obamacare replacement carries some political risk: “Although it may appeal to voters who don’t like the ACA, it also highlights his party’s inability to come up with an alternative, despite spending almost a decade promising one. It also raises questions about what exactly his plan would look like and whether it would cover fewer Americans than the current system as the pandemic ravages the country.”
Leaving those questions unanswered may be Trump’s real health-care plan for now.