‘Trumpcare’ Opens Up Another Health Opportunity At GOP Debate

Rubio has attacked Trump on health care. (REUTERS/Chris Keane)

Donald Trump’s health plan, released Wednesday, gives Marco Rubio another opportunity to attack the GOP frontrunner on health policy at tonight’s Republican debate.

Independent and GOP experts were quick to point out that Trump’s plan, dubbed “Trumpcare,” left many questions unanswered. But it also leaves enough room for Rubio, arguably the wonkiest candidate left in the GOP race, to attack Trump on multiple fronts.

“I think if it comes up, if there’s an opportunity to draw a contrast, Marco won’t hesitate to draw a contrast,” said a GOP health policy expert who has advised the Rubio campaign.

Like all his rivals, Rubio has promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He is a staunch defender of Medicare Advantage, which allows seniors to use private health plans. Beyond Medicare Advantage, he wants to expand seniors’ choices among insurers. Like Trump, he also wants to turn Medicaid into a block grant program.

Although there a lot of the same elements as other GOP plans, Trump’s outline looks less logical to people in the health industry. “That’s not really a policy platform. And in health care, nothing that he [Trump] put up yesterday leads me to think they have put any more thought into this issue than you might expect,” the expert added.

Trump’s seven-point plan is centered around mostly traditional Republican health care concepts. It calls on Congress to repeal Obamacare, allow the sale of health insurance across state lines, allow individuals to deduct premium payments from their tax returns, allow individuals to use health savings accounts (they already can), require price transparency from providers, and give Medicaid block grants to states. The one deviation from mainstream health policy is Trump’s stance on importing prescription drugs from other countries. Trump wants to allow it. Most Republicans don’t.

The plan makes no mention of the ideas Trump has come under fire for from conservatives in the past, most prominently a single-payer health care system and retaining Obamacare’s mandates.

But it also creates new attack avenues for Rubio. He can beat on Trump about how he would curb health care costs, what to do about prescription drug prices, and how to deal with preexisting conditions.

While most Republicans are trying to answer the question of what to do about the employer-sponsored insurance tax exemption, Trump wants to extends it to individuals. This could increase health care costs, while the conversation among Republican policymakers has been centered around reducing them.

Trump is also promoting a liberal solution to prescription drug costs with drug importation, and he is the only GOP candidate doing so. He altogether avoids the quest to find the Holy Grail of how to protect those with preexisting conditions while also repealing Obamacare mandates.

Of course, inconsistent or unsubstantive policy prescriptions are nothing new to the Trump campaign. There is ample evidence that Trump supporters aren’t drawn to the candidate based on policy, particularly health care policy.

But Trump did seem to sweat during the last GOP debate when Rubio questioned him about his health policy ideas. While people don’t gravitate to Trump because of his policy ideas, the GOP health expert said, “They’re obviously a little defensive about it.”

Morning Consult