President Trump’s election campaign focused on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed “Obamacare.” But on his first day as president of the United States, health care didn’t appear to be a priority — at least, not according to his website or inaugural address.
In fact, it wasn’t until the news broke on Friday evening that Trump signed an executive order to “minimize the economic burden” of Obamacare that we got even a hint of his plans. What those might be, though, are still far from clear.
When the Trump administration posted their “Top Issues” to the whitehouse.gov site earlier today, health care was a glaring omission. The top issues tab is populated with sections about energy, foreign policy, jobs, the military, law enforcement, and trade. But as of 9:49PM EST, health care still wasn’t there.
What’s more, President Trump’s inaugural address didn’t include a single mention of health, either. It also didn’t include the words medicine, insurance, care, sick, disability, Obamacare, or Affordable Care Act. His one reference to disease had more to do with research than policy. (“We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease...”)
To be sure, his lack of transparency about a health care plan doesn't mean that President Trump doesn't have one. In fact, he assured the The Washington Post as recently as January 15th that he had a plan in its final stages.
However, he did not divulge details beyond that there would be “insurance for everybody” — a statement that Vice President Mike Pence promptly walked back, according to CNN. In an interview with Fox & Friends that aired on Wednesday, Trump suggested that private insurance companies would “take care of a lot of the people that can afford it.”
The problem is that many people can’t afford it. Obamacare has insured 20 million people who didn’t have insurance before. Repealing the law would hit vulnerable populations like the poor, minorities, and the unemployed the hardest.
Three-quarters of people polled by the Kaiser Health Foundation do not support the GOP’s repeal-and-replace plan as it stands. In fact, 47 percent did not want the Affordable Care Act to be repealed; another 28 percent don’t want it repealed until there’s a clear replacement plan.
Since the election, when Republicans took over Congress and the Executive Branch, the GOP has run into challenges with repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. While the repeal step might be pretty easy to do through the budget reconciliation process, which can’t be filibustered, replacing it will probably be more complicated, as Vox.com explains. Especially because no coherent replacement plan has been announced.
At the beginning of January, Vice President Pence informed Republicans in the House of Representatives that Trump will be signing executive orders about health care as soon as he becomes president, CBS News reported. So far, his first acts have included signing a waiver that bends the federal law otherwise preventing General James Mattis from becoming defense secretary. He also signed cabinet nominations, and proclaimed a national day of patriotism, according to White House press secretary Sean Spicer.
President Trump looked around the table before he signed the first document handed to him. “Does everyone know what this is?” he asked. The waiver, everyone responded. “I thought it was health care, we’re going to get [Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY)] to sign the health care bill."
On Friday evening, we learned that Trump also signed an executive order about Obamacare today. Among other directives, it said that without breaking the law, the Secretary of Health and Human Services and other departmental heads should do their best “to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the Act that would impose a fiscal burden” on States, people, health insurers, pharmaceutical companies, and medical device manufacturers.
Whatever his next steps will be, though, continue to be a mystery — because they’re still not on his website.
Update 10:50PM ET, 1/20: Updated to reflect the late-breaking news that President Trump signed an executive order today regarding healthcare.