AP FACT CHECK: Trump's 'party of health care' lacks a plan

Friday, March 29, 2019, Vol. 43, No. 13

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says Republicans will be "the party of health care." So far there's no real plan behind that promise.

TRUMP: "If the Supreme Court rules that Obamacare is out, we will have a plan that's far better than Obamacare." — remarks Wednesday to reporters.

THE FACTS: The White House, executive branch agencies like Health and Human Services, and Republicans in Congress do not have a comprehensive plan to provide "far better" health care than the Affordable Care Act and there's no indication they are working on one.

Trump's recent budget called for repealing "Obamacare" and setting hard limits on federal spending for Medicaid, which covers low-income people. Some Republicans argue that would be better, because the federal government would create a new program of health care grants to states. But when the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analyzed similar proposals a couple of years ago, it estimated such changes would result in deep coverage losses, not to mention weaker insurance protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Trump's budget also called for hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare cuts to hospitals and other service providers, a nonstarter with lawmakers in Congress worried about re-election next year.

The Supreme Court has upheld the health care law twice in previous challenges. The five justices who first upheld it in 2012 are still on the court.

Some senior Republicans have made no secret of their dismay with the president's pivot back to repealing the Obama health law.

Congressional Republicans are generally trying to steer away from Obamacare spats. Some are trying to focus on areas where they might find common ground with Democrats and the president, such as reducing prescription drug costs.

Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley chairs the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over health care programs. He recently told reporters he's working on bipartisan legislation to deal with prescription drugs. Grassley pointed out that repealing Obamacare clearly would not be a bipartisan effort with Democrats.

The Trump administration has joined the side of Texas and other Republican-led states in a lawsuit calling for full repeal of the health law. Grassley noted that case may not be resolved until next year, in the midst of a presidential election and congressional races.

If the Supreme Court overturns the law, Congress would have to act, said Grassley. "But I doubt you're going to find that happening in an election year."

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