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Democrats, fact-checkers deem Trump op-ed on Medicare for All 'misleading'

Democrats and fact-checkers were quick to respond to an op-ed by U.S. President Donald Trump, noting that nearly all of his statements contained misleading information about proposals for universal healthcare coverage.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., even offered up a nearly line-by-line edited version of Trump's article, telling the 45th president his op-ed "needs some work."

"All of the false and misleading words in the world can't cover up how your administration and Republicans in Congress are forcing millions of Americans to pay more for healthcare," Schumer wrote on Twitter.

In an article published Oct. 10 in USA Today, Trump said the Democrats intended to "outlaw private healthcare plans, taking away freedom to choose plans, while letting anyone cross our border."

He said Democrats were "uniting around a new legislative proposal that would end Medicare as we know it and take away benefits that seniors have paid for their entire lives."

Trump included a link to a bill introduced a year ago by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the Medicare for All Act of 2017, which proposed to replace the U.S. private insurance structure with a single-payer program that would be run by the U.S. government.

Sanders, however, is not seeking to end the government's Medicare health insurance program for seniors and the disabled, as Trump alleged.

Rather, Sanders' bill calls for expanding it for those beneficiaries by adding dental, vision and hearing aids — services currently not covered by Medicare.

The program would be implemented in stages over four years. In the first year, the Medicare eligibility age would be reduced to 55 years and children and young adults 18 and under could become eligible to enroll.

Sanders' legislation also calls for the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for lower prices, something Medicare is currently banned from doing for its prescription drug program.

Trump noted that one analysis from George Mason University put the cost of a national single-payer program at $32.6 trillion for its first 10 years.

But others, including the Congressional Budget Office, which provides nonpartisan financial analyses to Congress, have yet to estimate the cost of Sanders' bill.

Trump also failed to acknowledge that Sanders' legislation is not the only universal healthcare proposal and it is not embraced fully by the Democrats, though he has 16 members of that party in the Senate as co-sponsors and former President Barack Obama last month called the single-payer concept a "good idea."

Officials from the nonpartisan, nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation noted that there are at least another half-dozen bills that have been introduced in the House or Senate aimed at creating either a national healthcare insurance program for all Americans or some that provide a blend of public and private coverage options.

In March, Kaiser reported that nearly 60% of Americans favored a national health plan, with that number rising to 75% when those respondents were asked if that approach could be made optional, with people being able to keep their current form of coverage — a concept backed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

The Center for American Progress has also proposed a structure that would guarantee universal coverage, but the so-called Medicare Extra For All program would also allow employer-based insurance.

More distortions

In his op-ed, Trump also accused the Democrats of already harming seniors by "slashing Medicare by more than $800 billion over 10 years" to pay for the Affordable Care Act — an argument that was long-ago discredited.

The funds were used to extend the solvency of Medicare, not harm it.

Trump, however, sought to trim Medicare spending by as much as $500 billion, Sanders said in an Oct. 10 statement.

The president also claimed that he has kept his promise to protect coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions and create new healthcare insurance options that would lower premiums.

But Trump and almost all of the House Republicans supported a bill in May 2017 to repeal and replace the ACA, which would have permitted states to receive waivers that would allow insurers to charge more for patients with pre-existing conditions — legislation that was never adopted by the Senate.

Republicans are now backing away from their repeal-and-replace legislation, claiming on the campaign trail ahead of the 2018 midterm elections they now support keeping the pre-existing condition protections, which were created under the Democrats' ACA.

Not only did the Trump administration decline to defend the ACA's pre-existing conditions protections in a lawsuit filed by 20 Republican state attorneys general, it sided with the plaintiffs who brought the challenge and argued in court that those protections should be invalidated.

The short-term health plans, which Trump expanded access to and critics call "junk" coverage, provide no protections for patients with pre-existing conditions.

All Republicans but one in the Senate voted on Oct. 10 against a measure that would have blocked that expansion.

While the Democratic-sponsored measure was defeated — dying in a 50-50 deadlock — the vote gave the party more fodder to argue that their rivals failed again to take action to protect patients with pre-existing conditions.