- Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
- President Donald Trump declared Tuesday that the GOP would become “The Party of Healthcare!”
- The pronouncement came the day after the Trump administration sided with a judge’s ruling that the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, should be struck down in its entirety.
- Democrats are embracing the healthcare fight with good reason, as a slew of polling shows Americans dislike Trump’s handling of healthcare and favor Democrats on the issue.
- If the fight drags into 2020, it could be bad news for Trump and the GOP.
President Donald Trump wants Republicans to go all in on healthcare, but there’s a lot of data showing the president’s new policy focus might not be the best idea for the GOP.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Trump declared that the GOP would reform its image around the healthcare issue.
“The Republican Party will become ‘The Party of Healthcare!'” the president said.
The tweet came the day after the Department of Justice said in a filing that the Trump administration supported a judge’s recent decision that the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, should be struck down.
If Obamacare is struck down, an estimated 20 million more Americans would go without health insurance, popular provisions like protections for people with preexisting conditions would be gone, and a huge portion of the US healthcare system would be faced with a chaotic scramble to adapt.
Given the ramifications of the repeal, the Trump administration’s decision to support the decision sent shockwaves through Washington and the healthcare policy world.
“From pre-existing condition protections to premium subsidies to expanded Medicaid to closing the Medicare donut hole to breastfeeding breaks to menu labeling,” Larry Levitt, the senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan healthcare think thank, tweeted. “Undoing the ACA, as the Trump administration is arguing in court, would affect almost everyone.”
- Getty Images/Pool
Following the Justice Department decision, Trump kept the focus on healthcare during a meeting with GOP senators on Tuesday. According to reports, Trump applauded the DOJ move and told Republicans that the party should once again focus on health policy in Congress.
But neither the administration nor Republicans in Congress have drafted a new healthcare plan to replace the ACA.
At the same time, House Democrats rolled out a sweeping bill meant to solidify preexisting-condition protections and strengthen the ACA.
The flurry of activity has brought renewed attention to the healthcare fight, which could pose a serious problem for Trump and become a boon for Democrats.
In fact, here are a few reasons that healthcare in general, and the Obamacare suit specifically, could come back to bite Trump:
- A majority of Americans now support Obamacare: Polls over the past year have shown Obamacare getting a record level of support, with a majority of Americans on board with the law.
- The GOP’s previous attempts to replace the ACA were incredibly unpopular: The last time the party attempted to repeal and replace the ACA, every iteration of its replacement was deeply unpopular. So unless there is a substantial change in the party’s approach, a new attempt at replacement is likely to be a political loser.
- Americans are very concerned about healthcare: Healthcare typically ranks among the most important issues to voters in polling, and the looming possibility of a major upheaval in the healthcare industry could make the issue even more of a factor in 2020.
- Healthcare was a winning issue for Democrats in the 2018 midterms: Before the 2018 midterms, Democrats went all in on healthcare messaging. The party attacked opponents over their support of the GOP repeal-and-replace bills, especially highlighting the replacements’ undermining of protections for people with preexisting conditions. Based on exit polling from that election, the attack worked. Healthcare was the top issue for midterm voters, and a majority of voters trusted Democrats’ ability to handle healthcare changes more than the GOP’s ability. Additionally, a slew of deep-red states voted to expand Medicaid under the ACA – another piece of the law that the lawsuit would repeal.
- Americans don’t like Trump’s handling of healthcare: While Americans generally trust Democrats’ handling of healthcare, the same cannot be said for the president. In a November 2018 Gallup poll, only 36% of people said they approved of Trump’s handling of healthcare policy, while 58% disapproved. A Fox News poll published Sunday also showed that just 37% of people approved of Trump’s handling of healthcare versus 52% who did not. In both of the polls, healthcare was Trump’s weakest issue.
- The timing of the Obamacare lawsuit could be bad for Trump: Given the timing of the lawsuit, there is a chance that the Supreme Court could decide on the Obamacare repeal in the fall of 2020, just before the presidential election. This means many voters could cast their votes within weeks of hearing that the Trump administration allowed a lawsuit to go forward that would force 20 million Americans to lose coverage while undermining preexisting-condition protections.