Trump riffs on health at campaign rally

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org. Follow her on Facebook.

Photo: Classic Film via Flickr

President Donald Trump has pledged to unveil a new plan to repeal and replace the ACA – but we haven’t seen it, and it’s not clear that we ever will.  If the president does announce a plan, it’s to campaign on in 2020, not to try to enact before the November elections with a Democratic-controlled House and a divided Senate.

There’s no way to know how the Ukraine scandal will factor into health care and domestic policy. Trump may focus on impeachment and politics to the exclusion of health care – or he may try to change the subject with some kind of health platform.  But even before the impeachment probe ratcheted up, Trump was trying to redefine the politics of health care, trying to move the focus away from cost and coverage and the Affordable Care Act, and on to public health issues like his kidney care plan and his blueprint for ending HIV/AIDS transmission in the U.S. I wrote about this with my colleague Dan Diamond – how Trump is trying to cast himself as the health care president – and how Democrats say “fat chance” given his administration’s attempts to shrink Medicaid and its backing for the lawsuit that aims to eliminate the health law passed under President Barack Obama.

So, curious about how Trump talks about health on the campaign trail, I reviewed the transcript of his New Mexico rally on Sept. 16. He wandered around many topics but here are the health care nuggets …

Opioids and the border:

“It’s time to finally take care of our own and we’re also aggressively combating the opioid epidemic, which is horrible and as a result of our nonstop efforts and billions and billions of dollars invested, last year we saw the first nationwide decline in drug overdose deaths and it was a very big decline in nearly three decades, 30 years. And at the center of America’s drug crisis. This is where the Hispanics know it better than anybody. People said: oh, the Hispanics won’t like a wall. I said I think they’re going to love it. They won’t like border security. I think they’re going to love it. You know why, because you understand it better than other people, but at the whole center of this crisis is the drugs that are pouring in, and you understand that when other people don’t understand it. The border crisis every day, dangerous criminal cartels smuggle vast quantities of lethal narcotics across your southern border, including heroin, meth, cocaine and fentanyl, and we’re stopping them now you see the kind of numbers we’re getting millions and millions and millions of dollars worth. We’ve had some shipments what could kill half of the country, some of the fentanyl and some of the bad, really bad stuff if it were distributed, could actually has the power to kill half of the country. This is like a war like situation. That’s why you’re liking Trump, because you’re not going to let that happen. If you want to stop the drug smugglers and the human traffickers, how about the human traffic and they traffic really for the most part in women, that’s what they traffic in its women. They’re not trafficking in men, they capture women and they bring them across the open borders and they don’t go through ports of entry where you have guards standing there with guns and rifles and everything else. They go out into the desert areas and they hang a left or they hang a right and they come in. But now when you have a wall, they can’t do that right.”

On the Democratic “snakes” who want the government to take over health care:

“Every major Democrat running for president supports a massive government takeover of health care that would destroy Medicare as we know it today. My administration will protect Medicare and defend your right to choose the plan and the doctor that is best for you.  And we will always protect patients with preexisting conditions. The Republicans will always do. Our ambitious campaign to reduce the price of prescription drugs has produced the largest decline in drug prices in more than 50 years.

On abortion:

“Virtually every top Democrat also now supports late-term abortion, ripping babies straight from the mothers’ womb right up until the moment of birth, and that’s why I’ve asked Congress to prohibit extreme late-term abortion, because Republicans believe that every child is a sacred gift from God. Right, I see it. Just like Mom, I see it. Democrats are now the party of high taxes, high crime, open borders, late-term abortion and socialism. The Republican Party is the party of the American worker, the American family, and it is the party of the American dream. “

On public health (an area where he has gotten some bipartisan backing):

“We will achieve new breakthroughs in science and medicine, finding new cures for childhood cancer and ending the AIDS epidemic in America within 10 years that we’ve already started that program. It will happen. We have the medicine. Nobody even knew that the AIDS epidemic in this country will be gone within 10 years. We’ve already started the process. It’s been funded, it’s been funded. Who would have thought that, honestly, when I ran, I didn’t know that we have now the technology and what they’ve done with respect to AIDS is incredible. What a terrible, terrible period of time the world went through, but we will have it ended within 10 years. We will defeat the effort to drive up the cost of houses, cars, health care, light bulbs.”

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