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Column: Trump's 'order' protecting people with preexisting conditions is a total nothingburger

Michael Hiltzik
·2 mins read
President Donald Trump arrives to deliver remarks on healthcare at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Trump prepares to unveil his vacuous healthcare plan on Thursday in Charlotte, N.C. (Associated Press)

After promising for weeks to produce an executive order protecting Americans with preexisting medical conditions from losing their health coverage, President Trump on Thursday delivered ... nothing.

The executive order unveiled at an event in Charlotte, N.C., does absolutely nothing to safeguard healthcare for those Americans. Trump introduced it with a passel of absurd disinformation and lies.

He said he was signing "the first ever executive order to affirm it is the official policy of the United States Government to protect patients with preexisting conditions. So we're making that official."

Preexisting conditions are much safe with us than they are with [the Democrats].

Trump lies about healthcare policy in Charlotte, N.C.

The disinformation here is that an executive order stating the U.S. government's position is even necessary. We know it's the official position of the government to protect Americans with preexisting conditions. That's because solid protections for those patients are a linchpin of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits insurers from refusing to cover them, or excluding their conditions from coverage, or surcharging them because of their medical histories.

The Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, during the Obama administration. Trump is trying to overturn the law through a half-baked lawsuit brought by Texas and other red states — a lawsuit he supports.

We pointed out this week that protections for patients with medical conditions have been consistently threatened since 2010 by congressional Republicans and since 2017 by Trump.

His executive order has no meat on its bones, no mechanism for enforcement, or even any statement of what those patients would be protected from — refusal of coverage? Higher costs? It's an insult to Americans' intelligence.

"Our opponents, the Democrats, like to constantly talk about it," Trump said, "and yet preexisting conditions are much safe with us than they are with them."

This is flatly, demonstrably, untrue. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the Texas case Nov. 10.

Asked during a press briefing on the executive order earlier Thursday how the administration, practically speaking, would safeguard protections for patients with medical conditions if the court overturns the law, Health and Human Services Alex Azar had virtually nothing to say.

"We will work with Congress or otherwise to ensure that they’re protected,” he stated.

That's it. What becomes clearer with every day is that the theme song of Trump's approach to healthcare is the anthem recorded in 1969 by Peggy Lee: "Is that all there is?"

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.