On Wednesday, USA Today ran an op-ed by Donald Trump that amounted to one of the strangest works of journalism in recent history. Presidents do occasionally publish pieces of their own writing—Barack Obama wrote about feminism for Glamour, solitary confinement for the Washington Post, and Title IX for Newsweek while in the White House. But Trump's column stands out because even by the standards of a piece of political messaging from a notorious liar, the falsehoods are piled high, to the point where you wonder just how sloppy the process behind its publication might have been.
The op-ed's primary argument is that Medicare for All would take healthcare away from seniors and that Republicans are the ones fighting to preserve the current system—a lie that the GOP as a whole has been pushing as the midterms approach. But drilling down into the individual statements that are incorrect is revealing, because it shows just how much Trump (or whoever wrote this under his byline) needs to twist his healthcare policies to make them seem appealing. Let's go through the column.
Throughout the year, we have seen Democrats across the country uniting around a new legislative proposal that would end Medicare as we know it and take away benefits that seniors have paid for their entire lives.
As you may have guessed from the term "Medicare for All," the idea is to expand Medicare rather than "end Medicare as we know it." And as Trump himself notes later in the column, "123 Democrats in the House of Representatives—64 percent of House Democrats —as well as 15 Democrats in the Senate" have formally backed some version of the idea. That's a lot of support, but the party is hardly united, with some Democrats supporting more modest plans like a "public option" in the existing healthcare system. That hasn't stopped Republicans from accusing all Democrats, no matter their positions, of backing single-payer healthcare in their campaign ads.
The Democratic proposal would establish a government-run, single-payer health care system that eliminates all private and employer-based health care plans and would cost an astonishing $32.6 trillion during its first 10 years.
Since the rest of this is going to be pretty hard on Trump, it's worth saying that this is basically correct—Medicare for All would be expensive, though advocates say it wouldn't cost ordinary people anything, just transform the private insurance industry into a public service.
As a candidate, I promised that we would protect coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions and create new health care insurance options that would lower premiums. I have kept that promise, and we are now seeing health insurance premiums coming down.
This is where the column takes a nosedive into utter nonsense. The healthcare bill Trump supported last year would have allowed insurers to charge patients with pre-existing conditions a lot more for coverage, and his administration is currently arguing in court that pre-existing condition protections should be wiped out—a contradiction that's unbelievably pointed out by a hyperlink in the USA Today column text itself. While premiums have indeed dropped, they could have dropped more if Trump hadn't sabotaged the Affordable Care Act.
I also made a solemn promise to our great seniors to protect Medicare. That is why I am fighting so hard against the Democrats' plan that would eviscerate Medicare. Democrats have already harmed seniors by slashing Medicare by more than $800 billion over 10 years to pay for Obamacare. Likewise, Democrats would gut Medicare with their planned government takeover of American health care.
Here again a hyperlink disproves Trump's premise: Clicking on "eviscerate Medicare" takes you to a New York Times article explaining that under Medicare for All, current Medicare recipients "would have more generous coverage." As for the $800 billion in cuts, I have no idea what he's talking about—that link goes to a Congressional Budget Office document, even though Trump's own White House attacked the CBO over its healthcare estimates. (Trump may be citing an old GOP line that conflated Medicare savings with Medicare cuts.) In any case, Trump's own budget sought Medicare cuts.
By eliminating Medicare as a program for seniors, and outlawing the ability of Americans to enroll in private and employer-based plans, the Democratic plan would inevitably lead to the massive rationing of health care. Doctors and hospitals would be put out of business. Seniors would lose access to their favorite doctors. There would be long wait lines for appointments and procedures. Previously covered care would effectively be denied.
In practice, the Democratic Party’s so-called Medicare for All would really be Medicare for None. Under the Democrats' plan, today’s Medicare would be forced to die.
This hints at a common objection to Medicare for All, which is that the plan calls for saving money by cutting reimbursement rates to hospitals, and hospitals tend to oppose the proposal for that reason (a counterargument is that hospitals have to eat the cost of treating uninsured patients, and there would be no uninsured population under Medicare for All). Bringing up "rationing" healthcare is also a common tactic from the right, though in the US care is currently effectively rationed based on who can afford what treatment. These arguments might amount to fear-mongering but they're vague enough to not be outright lies—though it should be pointed out that the healthcare cuts favored by Trump also amounted to further rationing care for vulnerable populations.
The first thing the Democratic plan will do to end choice for seniors is eliminate Medicare Advantage plans for about 20 million seniors as well as eliminate other private health plans that seniors currently use to supplement their Medicare coverage.
Next, the Democrats would eliminate every American’s private and employer-based health plan. It is right there in their proposed legislation: Democrats outlaw private health plans that offer the same benefits as the government plan.
This is a straightforward description of Medicare for All—expanding Medicare to be more generous would wipe out the convoluted private system, including Medicare Advantage, because no one would need it. A single-payer advocate might argue: So what?
The truth is that the centrist Democratic Party is dead. The new Democrats are radical socialists who want to model America’s economy after Venezuela.
If Democrats win control of Congress this November, we will come dangerously closer to socialism in America. Government-run health care is just the beginning. Democrats are also pushing massive government control of education, private-sector businesses and other major sectors of the U.S. economy.
Oh no, Democrats want to get the government involved in, uh, education? But even ignoring the existence of public schools, the broader argument about the Democratic Party ignores the evidence from the midterm primaries, where left-wing candidates have mostly struggled, though there have been a few high-profile exceptions.
Indeed, the Democrats' commitment to government-run health care is all the more menacing to our seniors and our economy when paired with some Democrats' absolute commitment to end enforcement of our immigration laws by abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That means millions more would cross our borders illegally and take advantage of health care paid for by American taxpayers.
The idea that Democrats support open borders is a lie Trump has repeated at many rallies. Abolishing ICE is a position some progressives support, though since ICE focuses on enforcing immigration laws in the country's interior it's nonsensical to equate that with "open borders." Democrats have repeatedly offered to increase border security funding in exchange for compromises from Republicans on immigration, and conservatives have repeatedly torpedoed those deals.
Republicans believe that a Medicare program that was created for seniors and paid for by seniors their entire lives should always be protected and preserved. I am committed to resolutely defending Medicare and Social Security from the radical socialist plans of the Democrats. For the sake of our country, our prosperity, our seniors and all Americans — this is a fight we must win.
There are good-faith critiques of Medicare for All, but this is just nonsensical. It's Tea Party–esque "get the government's hands off my Medicare," only repeated by the president of the United States. Republicans, not Democrats, have proposed cuts to the social safety net—but at least in the past the couched those proposals in arguments about how we need to cut the national debt. (Those arguments don't apply to tax cuts, apparently.)
Trump, by contrast, has invented a fictional Democratic Party that wants to cut Medicare by expanding it, and is now attacking those made-up Democrats. It's the kind of brazen lie that can be dismissed by anyone who reads the news—though I guess not the people behind the USA Today opinion section.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.