On Tuesday evening, President Trump and the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, Joe Biden, will take the stage in Cleveland, Ohio, in what could be the most consequential presidential debate in decades.
The stakes could not be higher. A vaccine for the coronavirus has yet to be fully developed. The U.S. economy remains a shell of its pre-pandemic self. The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has provided the president with a historic opportunity to shift the ideological composition of the Supreme Court’s majority for the first time in more than a generation. Countless protests and violent riots continue across the country.
The result of the 2020 election will, for better or worse, shape the course of the future of America, perhaps for a generation or more.
It is not uncommon for presidential elections to include more than just a few half-truths, misleading arguments and outright lies, and the debate on Tuesday evening will most assuredly be no different.
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One of the most important lies you can expect to hear at the debate will come from former Vice President Biden, who has repeatedly and falsely alleged that President Trump plans to “destroy the Affordable Care Act, and with it the protections for preexisting conditions.”
President Trump has said for years that although he supports replacing the Affordable Care Act — a disastrous piece of legislation signed into law by the Obama-Biden White House that dramatically increased the cost of health insurance premiums and deductibles — he strongly endorses keeping in place protections for preexisting conditions.
In fact, as recently as September 24, President Trump signed an executive order that stated, in part, “It has been and will continue to be the policy of the United States to give Americans seeking healthcare more choice, lower costs, and better care and to ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions can obtain the insurance of their choice at affordable rates.”
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Further, at the signing ceremony of the executive order, Trump said firmly, “Any health care reform legislation that comes to my desk from Congress must protect the preexisting conditions or I won’t sign it.”
The evidence presented by Biden for his claim about preexisting conditions is based entirely on the Trump administration’s decision not to defend the legality of much of the Affordable Care Act in federal court, a decision that puts the expansive health care law at risk of being struck down, in part or entirely.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments about the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act on November 10, just one week after Election Day.
The issue before the Supreme Court in this important case, California v. Texas, is not whether President Trump wants to gut the preexisting conditions clause from the Affordable Care Act, but rather whether the health care law’s mandate to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional in the wake of Congress’s decision to reduce the penalty for the mandate to $0 as part of the tax reform law passed in 2017.
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The Supreme Court must also determine how much of the remainder of the law will remain in place, if it chooses to strike down the individual mandate.
The Trump administration, along with Texas and 17 other states, has argued in court that the Affordable Care Act is no longer legal and should thus be struck down. However, that does not mean the Trump administration or Republican-led states want to take away anyone’s health care or preexisting conditions protections. They simply want to ensure the Constitution is being enforced in its entirety.
If the Supreme Court rules that the ACA is no longer constitutional, it will be the nation’s highest court, not President Trump, that ends the health care law. And it will do so not to score political points or because it wants to callously strip away health protections, but rather because the court determines the ACA is no longer a valid law.
President Trump and Republican-led states are exactly right to question the ACA’s legality in light of the changes made to the law in 2017 and the Supreme Court’s previous decisions about the constitutionality of the individual mandate. And Trump and congressional Republicans have already promised to pass new legislation to protect people with preexisting conditions should the court strike the entire law down.
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Further, even if the Supreme Court were to invalidate the ACA, there would be nothing stopping states from continuing to enforce their own state preexisting conditions mandates or passing new ones.
With these facts in mind, it is clear that Biden’s widespread campaign arguing that Trump is trying to cruelly eliminate preexisting conditions mandates is completely without merit.
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