President Donald Trump continues to change his position on health care, and recent comments he made to The New York Times reveal he might not understand how health insurance even works.
In an interview Wednesday with The Times, Trump signaled that, if he could, he would strip away protections for pre-existing conditions — but he also said he is generally of the view that people should have health care.
“Once you get something for pre-existing conditions, etc., etc. Once you get something, it’s awfully tough to take it away,” Trump told reporters from the Times. “As they get something, it gets tougher. Because politically, you can’t give it away. So pre-existing conditions are a tough deal.”
Times reporter Maggie Haberman then asked Trump if he was “generally of the view that people should have health care,” to which Trump responded, “Yes, yes.”
But wanting to strip people of protections for pre-existing conditions is completely contradictory to the belief that people should have health care. Without protections that keep insurers from discriminating against individuals with pre-existing conditions, those people can be charged significantly more for insurance, which could ultimately price people with the highest need for care out of the market.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump also said that under the Senate’s (currently non-existent) health care plan, people would have better protections for pre-existing conditions than they did under the Affordable Care Act.
Trump on Senate GOP plan: You're going to have better pre-existing protections than under Obamacare
— Mark Murray (@mmurraypolitics) July 19, 2017
Other comments from Trump’s interview with the Times reveal that the president might not understand what health insurance is.
“Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance,” Trump said, “and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, ‘I want my insurance.’”
Trump has described health insurance in this way before.
Worth remembering that the NYT quote about insurance costs isn't a one-time flub. Here he was in a May interview: pic.twitter.com/7QdPF7cnQA
— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) July 20, 2017
“Insurance is, you’re 20 years old, you just graduated from college, and you start paying $15 a month for the rest of your life and by the time you’re 70, and you really need it, you’re still paying the same amount and that’s really insurance,” the president said in an interview with The Economist in May.
The comment has mostly gotten flack for Trump’s comment that health insurance costs just $12 a month, but, at least for some people, he’s not actually wrong. There are people in the United States who are on Medicaid or receive large subsidies under the ACA who pay less than $12 a year for insurance.
Most people, of course, pay significantly more, but what’s notable about Trump’s comment is that the description he uses in both interviews is not health insurance, but rather more like life insurance.
The president isn’t alone in describing health insurance entirely inaccurately.
Paul Ryan says insurance can't work if healthy must pay more to subsidize the sick. But this is exactly what happens in every employer plan.
— Jonathan Cohn (@CitizenCohn) March 9, 2017
In May, House Speaker Paul Ryan said insurance could not work if healthy people had to subsidize sick people, despite the fact that healthy people subsidizing sick people is literally what health insurance is.