Joe Biden lambasted President Donald Trump’s push to repeal the Affordable Care Act, saying Thursday that if Trump gets his way, those who contract coronavirus could lose coverage or face higher premiums.
“If Donald Trump won’t end his senseless crusade against health coverage, I look forward to ending it for him,” the presumptive Democratic 2020 presidential nominee said in a speech in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Biden’s comments come as the Trump administration is expected to file briefs asking the Supreme Court to invalidate the Affordable Care Act – including popular provisions that protect individuals with pre-existing conditions. It’s the latest Trump effort to repeal Obamacare after the Republican-controlled Congress failed to do so during his first two years in office.
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Biden linked Trump’s bid to undo Obamacare to the coronavirus pandemic, saying that those who suffer the virus could live caught in a “vise” between Trump’s “twin legacies.” Those, Biden said, are Trump’s “failure to protect the American people from the coronavirus, and his heartless crusade to take health care protections away from American families.”
“If Donald Trump has his way, complications from Covid-19 could become a new pre-existing condition. Some survivors will experience lasting health impacts – like lung scarring and heart damage. And if Donald Trump prevails in court, insurers would be allowed to strip away coverage or jack up premiums – simply because of their battle with the coronavirus,” Biden said.
The former vice president called Trump’s effort “cruel,” “heartless” and “callous,” and said he believes Trump’s motivation behind the long-term effort to repeal Obamacare is that “he can’t abide to let stand one of President Obama’s great achievements.”
“Mr. President, drop the lawsuit,” he said. “Stop trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. Stop taking away people’s health care and their peace of mind.”
In a press call pre-butting Biden’s appearance, Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh pointed to Trump’s pledges to protect coverage for those with pre-existing conditions – despite Trump having backed legislation to repeal Obamacare, which put those protections in place, and the Justice Department now arguing in court for the law to be scrapped.
Biden broadly criticized Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, pointing to Trump telling supporters at a rally in Oklahoma last week that he’d asked his administration to “slow down” coronavirus tests as confirmed cases increased.
“He actually said it!” Biden said.
Biden accused Trump of reacting to the pandemic “like a child who can’t believe this has happened to him. All this whining and self-pity.”
“Well, this pandemic didn’t happen to him. It happened to all of us. And his job isn’t to whine about it, his job is to do something about it. To lead,” Biden said.
Biden campaigned during the Democratic primary on a pledge to defend the Affordable Care Act and seek to expand on it, in part by by beefing up the premium subsidies offered on the Obamacare exchanges and by creating a government-run public option on the exchanges that would compete with private insurance plans. He opposed pushes from more progressive candidates to scrap private insurance altogether in favor of “Medicare for all.”
The former vice president on Thursday sought to reassure Americans as the country faces the twin crises of a pandemic and the soaring unemployment it has caused.
“If you’re sick, if you’re struggling, if you’re worried about how you’re going to get through the day, I will not abandon you. I will not leave you to face these challenges alone. And we’re going to get through this together,” Biden said. “We’re going to build a health care system. We’re going to build on it. We’re going to build our economy – our country – back to better than it was before this God-awful crisis, that I promise you.”
CNN’s Ariane de Vogue and Tami Luhby contributed to this report.