President Trump is stepping up his efforts to protect Republicans from Democratic attacks that people with pre-existing conditions will be in danger of losing their health coverage under GOP control of Washington.
The Democratic attacks have been effective and put Republicans on defense following years in which a GOP Congress sought to repeal ObamaCare, which made protections for people with pre-existing conditions a part of U.S. law.
Trump’s first year in office was also focused on repealing ObamaCare, and his administration has supported a lawsuit that would overturn the healthcare law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions, preventing them from being denied coverage or charged more.
Yet on Wednesday, Trump was insisting it was the GOP that would protect pre-existing conditions, and Democrats who would not.
“Republicans will totally protect people with Pre-Existing Conditions, Democrats will not! Vote Republican,” Trump tweeted Wednesday.
Trump offered a similar argument in a tweet last week, stating that “all Republicans support people with pre-existing conditions, and if they don’t, they will after I speak to them.”
At rallies, Trump has been offering a similar argument.
The statements are an effort to fend off a barrage of Democratic attacks in the campaign.
“Poll after poll shows that voters tend to trust a candidate with a D next to their name rather than a candidate with an R next to their name when it comes to the issue,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist.
“They’re trying to get out in front of this to make sure that Democrats don’t effectively land it.”
Democrats pushed back sharply on Trump’s tweet on Wednesday, noting that his policy moves contradict his message.
“Good morning, America. This is a lie,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) tweeted in response to Trump.
“Mr. President, 4 words for you: Drop the lawsuit now,” Schumer added.
“Trump is no longer just lying about health care,” tweeted Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson. “He’s trying to deliberately scam the American people with lies and conspiracy theories to cover up what his party is really trying to do.”
Democrats also seized on new rules the Trump administration put forward just this week, making it easier for states to get waivers from ObamaCare regulations to encourage the use of short-term health insurance plans, which can deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or charge them more.
Tom Miller, a health care expert at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, said that there are possible alternative ways besides ObamaCare to cover people with pre-existing conditions, such as providing enough funding for high-risk pools.
But he said that the Republican failure to spell out those alternatives had left the party scrambling to say it supports ObamaCare’s protections.
“They’re lurching in the opposite direction, saying ‘I didn’t mean that,’” Miller said. “It’s a phased retreat from where they used to be.”
The Democratic onslaught on the issue, epitomized by an ad from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) showing himself shooting the anti-ObamaCare lawsuit with a gun, continued on Wednesday.