Political News

Trump says Obamacare 'works at least adequately now' after trying to dismantle it

Posted June 24, 2019 5:42 p.m. EDT
Updated June 24, 2019 5:43 p.m. EDT

— In the last three months, President Donald Trump has called Obamacare a "disaster," a "catastrophe" and something that just "doesn't work." But on Monday, he conceded, it's working "at least adequately now."

Trump told the crowd at the White House for the signing of an executive order to make health care prices more accessible that he had pondered doing "a bad job" at making Obamacare more efficient and effective. But he also takes credit for stabilizing the Affordable Care Act, saying that under his watch, it "works at least adequately now."

"I had a decision to make. Do we do a good job with Obamacare -- a remnant of Obamacare? Or do we do a bad job? If I do a bad job, well there you can blame Obama and the Democrats. If we do a good job, they'll get a little bit more credit, but it's still very faulty," Trump said. "It doesn't work and it's too expensive. And I told our great secretary (of Health and Human Services) Alex Azar, 'Don't do a good job. Do a great job.' "

Trump continued: "Once we got rid of the individual mandate it made it better but Obamacare doesn't work -- but it works at least adequately now. And we had that choice to make. And politically it's probably not a good thing that I did, but it's the right thing to do for a lot of people."

The President has been working to dismantle the ACA, the landmark health care bill signed by former President Barack Obama in 2010, since he took office in 2017. But during Trump's first year in office, the Senate failed to muster enough votes to pass a Republican proposal to repeal Obamacare. GOP lawmakers did effectively eliminate the individual mandate -- which required that nearly all Americans be insured or face a penalty -- as part of the 2017 tax overhaul law.

Trump officials have also made several significant changes to how Obamacare is administered, generally aimed at weakening it. They point to the fact that premiums for the benchmark plan fell slightly for 2019 -- after several years of steep hikes -- as a measure of success. Experts, on the other hand, say that insurers had to rein in increases after raising rates too much in prior years.

Trump has been spinning his loss over a wholesale Obamacare repeal into a victory for his administration's piecemeal efforts. He has long touted Congress' elimination of the mandate's penalty, and in recent weeks, he's told Time Magazine, Fox News and his supporters during his 2020 campaign launch that the move was a major win -- something he called the "worst part" of the ACA.

Still, his administration is trying to dismantle the law. In a surprise reversal, the Justice Department in March argued that the entire law should be invalidated, not just two key provisions protecting people with pre-existing conditions.

The government said in filings that the so-called "individual mandate" requiring Americans to have coverage is unconstitutional and that the rest of the law should therefore also be struck down, even if the government "might support some individual provisions as a policy matter."