Trump’s Health Care Lies Matter

2 years ago
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It certainly feels a bit silly to be picking apart Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s policy prescriptions during a week in which the big question is whether or not he is responsible for the spasms of violence that have punctuated his recent rallys. (Yes, he is.)

But an analysis of his health care plan by the nonpartisan budget hawks Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is instructive in that it shows, yet again, how detached his rhetoric on the campaign trail is from reality. It’s one more indication that he’s either deluded about what the words coming out of his mouth mean, or he thinks the electorate is mostly made up of rubes who can’t keep up with the torrent of promises and pledges he leaves scattered about the country.

According to the center’s report, Trump’s mish-mash of health care proposals – which are mostly old conservatives favorites dredged up from past health care reform debates – would cost nearly half a trillion dollars more than Obamacare over a decade, while doubling the number of people without health insurance. This is due to the fact that his repeal of the Affordable Care Act would rip away insurance from some 22 million people, while his proposed new plan for health insurance coverage, based on allowing companies to sell insurance across state lines and changing the tax treatment of health care policies bought by individuals, would only help about 1 million.

In that, he’s not much different from other Republicans at the moment, to be honest. But where Trump is different is in the way he talks about health care. Once past the necessary promise to repeal Obamacare, Trump actually distinguishes himself from his competitors by promising something akin to universal coverage. “I am going to take care of everybody. This is an un-Republican thing for me to say,” Trump explained on “60 Minutes” last fall. “I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now” and “the government’s gonna pay for it.”

And then there was this: “You cannot let people die on the street, OK? Now, some people would say, ‘that’s not a very Republican thing to say.’ Every time I say this at a rally, or even today, I said it – once, it got a standing ovation.” This is more than the generic GOP “repeal and replace” pablum; it’s a pledge to expand and improve health care coverage for the most vulnerable Americans.

Well, so much for that. His actual plan would leave millions of people, if not to die in the streets, then having to use the emergency room as their primary care physician.

Of course, the list of gaps between Trump’s policy rhetoric and reality is extensive. He’s going to raise taxes on the wealthy, except his actual plan delivers them a huge tax cut. Mexico is going to pay for his wall on the border, except no, it’s really not.

But the distance between what he says and the real world is starkest – and most dangerous – when he’s stoking his supporters to violence and then claiming that his rallies are a “love-fest”; when he says rally-goers are merely defending themselves from unruly protesters, while they’re actually sucker-punching demonstrators; and when he straight up repeats Internet hoaxes on network television as if they’re the truth to justify his backers’ behavior. These lies hurt people, in real time. He’s giving license to his supporters to unleash their worst impulses, content in the knowledge that their hero will look the other way, if not egg them on. And then he pretends that up is down and day is night.

As U.S. News and World Report’s Nicole Hemmer ably noted Tuesday, the Trump lies comes so fast and furious that it’s often impossible to keep up, and the fact that he’ll never, ever cop to a falsehood – to the point of flat out claiming that he didn’t say what he said – can leave even the best questioners bamboozled. According to an analysis by Politico Magazine, Trump tells a lie, on average, once every five minutes that he is speaking. And he seems to feel no shame in doing so, or have any inclination to stop.

The numbers about his health care plan are one more part of the pattern, then, and that’s why they’re worth highlighting. I don’t know if he doesn’t understand why his proposals would have the effect they would, or he simply doesn’t care. But Trump’s lies matter. No one with such a cavalier attitude toward the truth – and such a disinterest or disdain for what data or history say would happen if his proposed policies became law – should be entrusted with the sort of life and death decisions that get made in the Oval Office.

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