Biden ties COVID-19 to Trump's 'callous' Obamacare assault: 'A new pre-existing condition'

Biden's speech from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was his latest attack on Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By Adam Edelman

Joe Biden on Thursday warned that President Donald Trump’s attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act will have disastrous consequences on Americans who become infected with the coronavirus, demanding in a fiery speech that the "callous" president end a lawsuit that is seeking to terminate the landmark health care law.

"He’s like a child who just can’t believe this has happened to him. It’s all whining and self-pity," Biden said of Trump's coronavirus response during a speech in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. "This pandemic didn’t happen to him. It happened to all of us."

Addressing Trump directly at another point, Biden said, "Mr. President, drop the lawsuit. Stop trying to take away people’s health care and their peace of mind."

"I cannot comprehend the cruelty he is inflicting on the very people he is supposed to serve," he said.

The presumptive 2020 Democratic nominee added that "most cruelly of all, if Donald Trump has his way, complications from COVID-19 could become a new pre-existing condition," which insurance plans could decide not to cover.

"Some survivors will experience lasting health impacts — like lung scarring and heart damage," he said. "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, referring to the Trump administration’s ongoing legal effort to invalidate the Affordable Care Act — the signature health care law otherwise known as Obamacare.

"They would live their lives caught in a vise between Donald Trump’s twin legacies: his failure to protect the American people from the coronavirus, and his heartless crusade to take health care protections away from American families,” Biden said at the Lancaster Recreation Center.

"It's cruel, it's heartless, it's callous," he added. "He can't abide ... letting stand one of President Obama's greatest achievements."

Before the speech, Biden met with local families to discuss health care issues. Across the street from the socially distanced outdoor meeting, a group of pro-Trump supporters could be heard chanting “four more years” and "make America great."

Earlier this year, the Trump administration joined a coalition of Republican-led states in asking a federal appeals court to entirely overturn the Affordable Health Care Act — a decision that could leave millions uninsured.

The speech marked Biden’s latest attack on Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, Biden, in a speech outside Philadelphia, accused Trump of "flat-out surrendering" the fight against the disease and urged the president to "wake up" and "get to work."

Biden, on Thursday, also hit Trump for commenting at his first campaign rally in months on Saturday that he wanted to slow down testing for the coronavirus.

"Testing unequivocally saves lives, and widespread testing is the key to opening up our economy again,” Biden said. But Trump, he said, "thinks finding out that more Americans are sick will make him look bad. And that’s what he’s worried about. He’s worried about looking bad."

The Trump campaign hit back against Biden's attack, saying in a call with reporters that the former vice president's record is "disastrous."

"We have confidence the president is strong in Pennsylvania a second time," Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said.

Biden’s increased targeting of Pennsylvania makes sense: The state is among the most critical battlegrounds in the 2020 race and is one of the hardest hit by the pandemic.

As of Thursday, the state had the eighth-most confirmed cases of COVID-19 and the fifth-most deaths in the U.S.

The economic toll has been even more striking. Since March 14, at least 2.1 million Pennsylvanians (or nearly 1 in 3 workers in the state) have lost their jobs — the sixth-highest number during that period in the country.

The venue for the speech, however, is surprising. While health care is a dominant industry in Lancaster, Trump handily carried the county in 2016, beating Hillary Clinton by nearly 20 percentage points. Barack Obama also lost the county by double digits in both 2008 and 2012.