- President Donald Trump suggested on Wednesday that he would consider opening up Medicare and Medicaid to more uninsured Americans as the coronavirus spreads across the US.
- Trump has long slammed Democratic proposals to expand government insurance and decided this week not to temporarily reopen the Obamacare marketplace to allow nearly 30 million uninsured Americans to purchase coverage during the pandemic.
- “It’s something we’re really going to look at, because it doesn’t seem fair,” Trump said at Wednesday’s White House briefing. “If you have it, you have a big advantage. And at certain income level you do.”
- The exchanges are still open to those who recently lost their jobs, including the millions of Americans who’ve recently become unemployed as a result of the pandemic.
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It was a remarkable concession from a president who supports striking down the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare – a move that would strip health insurance away from tens of millions of Americans.
During Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing, the Fox News White House correspondent John Roberts asked Vice President Mike Pence a series of pointed questions about the administration’s decision this week not to temporarily reopen the Obamacare marketplace to allow uninsured Americans to purchase coverage during the pandemic.
“There will be people who don’t have insurance who get sick before any of these mitigation efforts are put into place,” Roberts said. “And without opening the healthcare exchanges, where can they find insurance? People who aren’t insured by these companies that are covering the cost of the copays, where can people go, now, to get health insurance if they get – before they get sick?”
Pence did not answer the question but argued that Medicaid and some American health insurance companies were making “inspiring” decisions to waive copays on coronavirus testing and treatment.
Trump stepped in and conceded that Roberts’ question was “fair” and said Pence had skillfully dodged it.
He said it “doesn’t seem fair” that so many Americans can’t afford to purchase insurance but don’t qualify for Medicare or Medicaid – appearing to suggest those programs could be expanded to include more people.
“John, I think it’s a very fair question though, and it’s something we’re really going to look at, because it doesn’t seem fair,” Trump said. “If you have it, you have a big advantage. And at a certain income level you do.”
He continued: “I think it’s one of the greatest answers I’ve ever heard, because Mike was able to speak for five minutes and not even touch your question. I said that’s what you call a great professional.”
Trump said he believed he would “get to” addressing the problem and accused “the other group,” presumably Democrats, of ignoring it, though Democrats have long made healthcare a critical policy issue. Sen. Bernie Sanders has aggressively pushed “Medicare for All,” while former Vice President Joe Biden has advocated a public option, also known as “Medicare for all who want it.”
“I think we’re going to get to it,” Trump said. “I don’t think the other group will get to it. They haven’t even spoken about it.”
But Trump said he wasn’t “committing” to doing anything. “I can’t commit,” he said. “I have to get approval from it. I have thing called ‘Congress.’ But it’s something we’re going to look at, and we have been looking at it.”
Many Democrats and health insurance companies have pushed the White House to temporarily reopen the exchanges and criticized Trump’s decision not to do so.
“This callous decision will cost lives. Period,” Biden tweeted on Wednesday.
The exchanges will still be open to those who recently lost their jobs, including the millions of Americans who have recently become unemployed as a result of the pandemic.