Hours after a smug celebration of the passage of a bill to dismantle Obamacare with House Republicans, President Trump headed to New York to meet with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. As Trump gloated about how he thinks the bill will improve health care for Americans, he turned to Turnbull and said, “You have better health care than we do.”
Australia’s government provides nationalized health care, and the country spends about half as much as the U.S. does to provide it.
CNN’s panel seemed to assume Trump was just being chummy and flattering with Turnbull without concern for the substance of what he was saying. In fact, Trump has long voiced support for universal health care, even if he hasn’t actually pursued it politically.
For example, just before his inauguration, Trump told the Washington Post that his goal is “insurance for everybody” — ironically, exactly what Obamacare tried to move the country closer toward. He explained, “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.”
In an interview back in 2015, Trump was even more explicit. “I am going to take care of everybody,” he told 60 Minutes. “I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re being taken care of now.” He even vowed that people without insurance would be accommodated. “The government’s going to pay for it, but we’re going to save so much money on the other side.”
And support for a nationalized health care plan wasn’t just something Trump talked about during his latest campaign for president. Way back in 1999, he laid out a similar plan. “I would put forward a comprehensive health care program and fund it with an increase in corporate taxes,” he explained at the time.
Of course, the plan he was celebrating Thursday with House Republicans does nothing of the sort. In reality, it would cut insurance for some 24 million people or more (the House voted before the Congressional Budget Office even finished scoring the resurrected version of the bill, so they’re still waiting on more precise figures). It also does nothing to support people who do not have health insurance, who would still be expected to pay for all their health care out-of-pocket. And it would make coverage too expensive for millions of people with pre-existing health conditions.
If Trump actually supports nationalized health care, he’s been rallying congressional Republicans to take the country in the very opposite direction. It’s almost like Trump cares more about the political win than the substance of the bills he’s trying to get passed.
UPDATE: During Friday’s White House press briefing, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of Trump’s comments, “I think he was simply being complimentary of the prime minister. I do not think it was much more than that.” Asked to clarify, she added, “He believes they have a good health care system for Australia,” but “what works in Australia may not work in the United States.”
UPDATE: A mere two hours after Sanders’ briefing dismissing the comment, Trump tweeted the following:
Of course the Australians have better healthcare than we do –everybody does. ObamaCare is dead! But our healthcare will soon be great.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 5, 2017