Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, sent a letter on Monday demanding that President Donald Trump and 20 state attorneys general drop their support for a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act better known as Obamacare. Biden claimed that Trump’s opposition to Obamacare is “unconscionable” during the coronavirus crisis.
“At a time of national emergency, which is laying bare the existing vulnerabilities in our public health infrastructure, it is unconscionable that you are continuing to pursue a lawsuit designed to strip millions of Americans of their health insurance and protections under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including the ban on insurers denying coverage or raising premiums due to pre-existing conditions,” Biden says in the letter.
The Democrat’s focus on pre-existing conditions is both savvy and misleading. President Trump has made it clear that he supports coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
During a Fox News town hall on March 5, Trump said, “Pre-existing conditions: 100 percent, we take care of” them.
“First of all, I got rid of the individual mandate, which was the worst part of Obamacare,” Trump explained, touting the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. That tax cut set the individual mandate — the tax levied on Americans who refuse to purchase health insurance, a key facet of Obamacare that was always unpopular — at zero. The lawsuit in Texas v. U.S. claims that with the individual mandate at zero, Obamacare falls apart because it was upheld as constitutional in the Supreme Court case NFIB v. Sebelius (2012), which upheld the individual mandate as a tax.
“What we really have left is the carcass of Obamacare … without the individual mandate, it’s a whole different ballgame,” Trump explained. “And what we’d like to do is totally kill it, but come up with something that’s great.”
Referring specifically to Texas v. U.S., Trump said the twenty attorneys general who joined the lawsuit are trying to terminate Obamacare and replace it with “something that’s much better.” He added that “they’ve all pledged that preexisting conditions, 100 percent taken care of.”
In his letter, Biden condemned the lawsuit as a threat to public health. “Make no mistake: If the ACA did not exist right now, in this public health crisis, tens of millions of people would not have health insurance. 100 million would not have protections for the kind of underlying conditions that make them even more vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19. Insurance companies would be allowed to place caps on care provided to individuals. And if you succeed in killing it next year, you’ll put countless Americans at risk in the next pandemic,” he writes.
Yet Trump has pledged to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions, making Biden’s strongest point moot.
The former vice president also failed to note the many weaknesses of Obamacare. The individual mandate at the center of Texas v. U.S., for example, would never have passed Congress as a tax, and Obama originally insisted it was not a tax. Yet the administration had to argue that it was a tax because the government does not have the authority to force people to purchase goods and services.
The bill involved another bait-and-switch, too. Former President Barack Obama got pro-life Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) to support Obamacare by promising that it would not mandate coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, but the law infamously did so, leading to high-profile litigation. Obamacare ended up serving as a vehicle for far-left social causes like abortion and transgender activism.
These bait-and-switch maneuvers were a key facet of passing the legislation, Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber later explained. He said lawmakers needed to deceive the public because of the “stupidity of the American voter.”
While Obamacare did extend coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, it failed to achieve the central purpose of the legislation — making health care more affordable. For these and other reasons, less than half of Americans say they think Obamacare was a good idea.
Yet Joe Biden thinks he can score political points by championing the failure that is Obamacare amid a public health crisis. This should not be surprising. After all, Biden slammed Trump’s response to the coronavirus while passing Trump’s actual actions off as his own plan. He has also spread misinformation about Trump and the WHO during this crisis and tapped a coronavirus health advisor who told the elderly to avoid flu shots.
Now, in a desperate attempt to bolster himself as an alternative to Trump, Biden is trying to rewrite history and make Obamacare seem like the right path forward. Americans who remember the scandals of the past ten years should see through his rhetoric.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.