Donald Trump is, implausibly, still running for president, and we seem to be transitioning into a new phase of the Trump 2016 experience. Media coverage of the Trump campaign up to this point has been devoted primarily to the spectacle of it all, and Trump has been actively encouraging this gawking-at-the-train-wreck tone of coverage by saying outlandish things and sitting for countless cable news interviews. But now that Trump is leading in most state and national polls, you can see some movement towards treating Trump as one would a normal human being who is running for president.
Yesterday, CNN’s Dana Bash interviewed Trump and did something remarkable: she asked him a policy question and pressed him for details. The policy in question was healthcare reform, and Trump’s plan for how he’d update the country’s healthcare system was… interesting:
BASH: So, you're in the Oval Office, you're saying, Obamacare...
TRUMP: It's got to go.
BASH: It's got to go.
TRUMP: Repeal and replace with something terrific.
“Something terrific.” Just hearing the phrase escape Donald Trump’s lips sets the imagination on fire. If you get sick during the Trump administration, you check into a Trump Taj Mahealth Inpatient Care Facility and Luxury Golf Resort and Casino, where a team of beautiful, classy nurses will take your blood pressure and give you pointers on how to tighten up your backswing. After a cursory examination by a Trump Organization-certified medical practitioner, you’ll be comped a neck brace and a few Tylenol before being brusquely escorted from the premises (can’t have a bunch of sick losers hanging around and detracting from the classiness).
But Dana Bash pushed ahead and asked Trump to explain what “something terrific” would actually look like, and Trump offered something that sort of resembled a healthcare policy:
TRUMP: The terrific will be plans that could be done by private companies. I have to be able to compete. I want to be able to compete and go to a company in California, a company in Iowa, a company in New Hampshire, a company -- for -- and I will get a good price.
The only way the government should really be involved is they have to make sure those companies are financially strong, so that if they have catastrophic events or if they make a miscalculation, they have plenty of money.
Other than that, it's private. You will get great plans, you will have great competition, everything else. Now, at the lower end, where people have no money, I want to try and help those people. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. But I want to try and help those people, so they can also can -- now, it's not going to be like a good plan. It's not going to be like the finest plan that somebody that's made some money or has a good living can do.
Well, that’s… incoherent. The Trump health policy – Trumpcare, Donald Docs, whatever you want to call it – seems to have three planks: selling insurance across state lines (a standard-issue Republican health policy), some undefined subsidy for health insurers, and a similarly vague government-subsidized plan for low-income people. On the one hand, Trump wants free enterprise and competition to drive the health insurance market. On the other hand, he wants to insulate health insurers from any and all risk by throwing federal dollars at them to make sure they’re “financially strong” at all times. So Trump is basically proposing the creation of a safety net for health insurers, and a far less generous safety net for the poor. How would Trump pay for this? He didn’t say.
It’s clear that Trump hasn’t put a great deal of thought into this, but no one really expects him to because he’s a dummy and a clown. What’s amusing, though, is that Trump – with this vague, absurd healthcare plan – has matched or exceeded his 2016 compatriots and Republicans in Congress when it comes to laying out an alternative to Obamacare. We’ve been hearing “repeal and replace” from Republicans for over half a decade now, and the “replace” part of the equation never goes beyond mush-mouthed talking points about “patient-centered reforms” and “increased choice.” Earlier this year, the House passed a resolution instructing committee chairs to draft healthcare legislation that regulates no one, lowers healthcare costs, boosts coverage, and doesn’t raise taxes – a fantasy wish list that is no more serious than saying “something terrific.”
So great job, Republicans. When it comes to healthcare policy, you’re on the same plane as Donald Trump.