Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Thursday announced that Donald Trump will sign an executive order declaring that it is the "the policy of the United States" that people with preexisting conditions will be protected.
However, Azar admitted on a call before Trump's announcement that the order holds no legal weight. As the Daily Beast's Sam Stein reported, Azar said the executive order would have no affect if the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare and said it is merely a "defined statement of U.S. policy that people with preexisting conditions are protected."
That policy that protects people with preexisting conditions is Obamacare, which bans insurance companies from denying coverage to those with preexisting conditions.
But if the Supreme Court overturns the law — which Trump is currently urging the court to do — then Americans will lose preexisting conditions coverage regardless of what Trump's executive order says.
Azar said that if Obamacare is overturned, the White House would have to "work with Congress" to find a fix.
"An executive order directed at private parties has no more legal weight than a press release," Nicholas Bagley, a professor of administrative law at the University of Michigan, tweeted.
Trump, for his part, has repeatedly lied about his efforts to protect people with preexisting conditions.
In fact, he has made multiple attempts to repeal or sabotage Obamacare, which prohibits health insurance companies from charging higher premiums or denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions.
In 2017, Trump backed a GOP proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare that would have increased premiums for those with preexisting conditions. The Republican effort ultimately failed, and the GOP abandoned the effort, which was immensely unpopular with the electorate and may have even contributed to the party losing its House majority in 2018.
Ultimately, Trump has been promising a health care plan for years that he said will be better and cheaper than Obamacare, always promising it will arrive in two weeks. He made that same claim at an ABC town hall on Sept. 15, saying that his plan was "ready" without providing any details about what it entails.
Azar's announcement was an attempt to finally release that long-awaited plan, but it is not a plan at all.
The effort to make it look like Trump supports preexisting condition protections as he advocates for repealing Obamacare comes in the final days of the election, in which polls show voters trust Democrats over Trump and the GOP on the issue of health care.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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