I don’t want to give anybody a false sense of hope here, but Donald Trump just told the Wall Street Journal that after chatting with President Obama, he might not want to junk the entire Affordable Care Act after all. According to the paper, Trump says that he would now consider keeping the regulations that allow Americans 25 and under to stay on their parents’ health insurance and prevent insurers from denying coverage to consumers with pre-existing conditions. “I like those very much,” Trump said.
I imagine many Republicans have to be flipping out right now. Pretty much everybody wants to continue letting adult children stay on their parents’ plans. But it is almost impossible to eliminate the rest of Obamacare if you keep the rules forcing insurers to cover patients with pre-existing conditions. That requirement is why we have the individual mandate—so that carriers can sign up enough healthy, profitable patients to balance out the sick, unprofitable ones. And of course, if you have to have a mandate, you have to have subsidies for coverage, etc., etc. Conservative wonks have tried to think up alternatives to Obamacare’s regs on this—one idea would ensure that patients with pre-existing conditions can keep their coverage so long as they continuously paid premiums—but they’re far less strict and consumer friendly.
Why Trump’s change of heart? Per the WSJ:
On health care, Mr. Trump said a big reason for his shift from his call for an all-out repeal was that Thursday meeting at the White House with the president, who, he said, suggested areas of the Affordable Care Act to preserve. “I told him I will look at his suggestions, and out of respect, I will do that,” Mr. Trump said in his Trump Tower office.
“Either Obamacare will be amended, or repealed and replaced,” Mr. Trump said.
So, Obama just told him about this stuff, and Trump thought it sounded worth looking into. It’s not as if he’s making any promises. And maybe our president-elect is just BSing here. But if not, it’s a remarkable change in rhetoric. And I’m going to count this as evidence of my prior thesis that Trump does not actually know what Obamacare does. Also, it’d be a jaw-dropping demonstration of just how easily influenced he is.
Of course, Trump is also busy stocking his transition team with doctrinaire conservatives and cranks right now. I’m sure there’ll soon be plenty of people around him urging the complete destruction of the Affordable Care Act. And there’s no reason to think he won’t listen to them when the time comes.