White House insists secret health care plan ‘certainly does exist’

At a Capitol Hill hearing last week, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asked several leading Trump administration officials, each of whom work directly in the health care field, whether they had any idea what the White House’s health care plan entails. It didn’t go especially well.

Federal testing czar Brett Giroir, Robert Kadlec, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, and CDC Director Robert Redfield all answered the same way: they had no idea.

Soon after, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany fielded some questions about Donald Trump’s elusive plan and who’s working on its creation. “If you want to know,” she said, “come work here at the White House.”

Yesterday, another reporter noted that there are “doubts” that the president’s health care plan “actually exists.” This time, McEnany responded in an unintentionally funny way.

“No, it certainly does exist. The President, in the next week or so, will be laying out his vision for health care…. [T]he President will be laying out some additional healthcare steps in the coming, I would say, two weeks.”

It was in June 2017 when Bloomberg News made a terrific observation: Team Trump had an unnerving habit of responding to every difficult question by saying the answer was “two weeks” away. Unfortunately, that habit never really went away.

And that’s part of what makes this amusing. As regular readers know, Donald Trump has spent literally years telling Americans he has a terrific health care plan, which will deliver better results at a lower cost, and this reform miracle is nearly ready for its unveiling.

Indeed, as recently as last week, the president went so far as to boast, in reference to his health care plan, “I have it all ready. I have it all ready…. I have it all ready.” The rhetoric came in response to a question from ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, who reminded the Republican that when the host interviewed him in June 2019, Trump said at the time that his new health care plan was “two weeks” away.

The president used the same rhetoric two months ago, promising Fox News he’d “sign” a “full and complete” health care plan “within two weeks.” That was 10 weeks ago.

What’s far less amusing, of course, is that this is no longer an abstraction. It was easy to point and laugh at the absurd promises from the White House about the release of a secret health care plan when it didn’t much matter: the Affordable Care Act exists, it’s popular, it’s working, and even if Trump’s mysterious blueprint materialized, it’d likely be defeated in Congress.

But now that there’s a very real possibility that Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices will tear down the U.S. health care system, the president’s illusory plan is suddenly far more important.

For what it’s worth, Trump is reportedly preparing some “executive actions” on health care, to be signed as early as tomorrow, but given that meaningful health care policymaking requires legislative solutions, there’s no reason to believe these presidential actions will be anything other than election-season theater, amounting to very little.

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