WASHINGTON — As a candidate for the White House, Donald Trump repeatedly promised that he would “immediately” replace President Barack Obama’s health care law with a plan of his own that would provide “insurance for everybody.”
Back then, Trump made it sound that his plan — “much less expensive and much better” than the Affordable Care Act — was imminent. And he put drug companies on notice that their pricing power no longer would be “politically protected.”
Nearly three years after taking office, prescription drug prices have edged lower, but with major legislation stuck in Congress it’s unclear if that relief is the start of a trend or merely a blip.
In the meantime, the uninsured rate has gone up, rising in 2018 for the first time in nearly a decade to 8.5% of the population, or 27.5 million people, according to the Census Bureau.
White House officials argue that the president is improving the health care system in other ways, without dismantling private health care.
White House spokesman Judd Deere noted Trump’s signing of the “Right-to-Try” act that allows some patients facing life-threatening diseases to access unapproved treatment, revamping the U.S. kidney donation system and the FDA approving more generic drugs as key improvements. Trump has also launched a drive to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“The president’s policies are improving the American health care system for everyone, not just those in the individual market,” Deere said.
But as Trump gears up for his reelection campaign, the lack of a health care plan is an issue that Democrats believe they can use against him. Particularly since he’s still seeking to overturn “Obamacare” in court.
This month, a federal appeals court struck down the ACA’s individual mandate, the requirement that Americans carry health insurance, but sidestepped a ruling on the law’s overall constitutionality. The attorneys general of Texas and 18 other Republican-led states filed the underlying lawsuit, which was defended by Democrats and the U.S. House. Texas argued that due to the unlawfulness of the individual mandate, “Obamacare” must be entirely scrapped.
Trump welcomed the ruling as a major victory. Texas v. United States appears destined to be taken up by the Supreme Court, potentially teeing up a constitutional showdown before the 2020 presidential election.
Voters have consistently named health care as one of their highest concerns in polling. And more narrowly, a recent Gallup-West Health poll found that 66% of adults believe the Trump administration has made little or no progress curtailing prescription drug costs.
Prescription drug prices did drop 1% in 2018, according to nonpartisan experts at U.S. Health and Human Services.