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Fact check: Trump's false and misleading claims on health care in final midterm campaign blitz

Trump made unsupported claims about pre-existing conditions, Medicare and Democrats in a pair of rallies over the weekend.
President Donald Trump arrives aboard Air Force One to rally with supporters in Chattanooga
U.S. President Donald Trump arrives aboard Air Force One to rally with supporters in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Nov. 4, 2018.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

President Donald Trump spoke at length about health care during his weekend blitz of rallies before the midterm elections on Tuesday, pitching Republicans as leaders and defenders on health care and Democrats as avowed socialists who want to cannibalize Medicare.

"We're doing a good job," Trump said while touting his party's leadership on the issue on Sunday night.

What has Trump claimed, and what are the facts?

Claim: Average premiums

"Average premiums in Georgia this year are coming down, we’re bringing them down," Trump said on Sunday in Macon, Georgia. "We’re running it properly."

Experts believe Obamacare premiums are dropping or only rising slightly because the exchanges are stabilizing after two years of sharp rate increases — not because Trump somehow quietly fixed the program while trying to repeal it.

And some experts argue premiums would have dropped far more if Trump hadn’t tried to undercut the law by spending most of the year trying to repeal it and eventually destabilizing it by eliminating the individual mandate that helped force healthy people into the marketplace.

Claim: Better, cheaper health care plans

"We've just introduced new affordable health care plans for Georgia, new individual markets that only cost about half the price of Obamacare, and it’s frankly better insurance," he said in Georgia.

Trump appears to be describing the barebones insurance plans his administration has championed after loosening the Obamacare restrictions on such cheaper plans. Obamacare largely eliminated those plans because the coverage was so limited, and only allowed them to be sold as brief stopgaps for those in transition after changing jobs, for instance.

Critics call these "junk" insurance plans and note the benefits are not equivalent, let alone better, than the more expensive, but more comprehensive plans offered through Obamacare. Democrats introduced legislation to overturn the Trump regulation that allowed these plans, forcing a Senate vote that failed along party lines.

“These plans are cheap for a reason,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., said last month. “They do not have to provide essential health benefits like hospitalization, prescription drugs and maternity care.”

Claim: Access to private care for veterans

"We passed Veterans Choice, giving our veterans the right to see a private doctor rather than waiting on line for 10 days, for 20 days, for 3 months," Trump said in Georgia.

The Veterans Choice Program was created in 2014 — years before Trump took office. It allowed veterans who did not live within 40 miles of a department hospital or faced wait times of over a month to seek private care.

Trump signed a law that reformed and consolidated that program and others into something called the Veterans Community Care Program, expanding the circumstances under which a veteran can get private medical care. His reforms will not be enacted until 2019, and wait times may still be a problem. The national average wait time to see a private doctor under the program now is 51 days, the Government Accountability Office reported in June.

Claim: The Democratic Party will 'obliterate' Medicare, hurting seniors

"The Democrat plan would obliterate Medicare and eliminate Medicare Advantage for more than 360,000 Indiana seniors who totally depend on it,” Trump said in Indianapolis.

While some Democrats support moving toward a single-payer health care system, the party does not agree on it: Medicare for All legislation introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has support from less than half of all Democratic senators.

Though the Sanders plan is short on revenue details, Democrats are proposing to insure more people with a system built from the foundation of Medicare, not kick a bunch of senior citizens off their plans. For instance, the legislation proposes phasing out Medicare Advantage plans — the Medicare plans administered by private companies — and phasing in plans with similar benefits and stronger financial protections, too.

Claim: Republicans will protect Medicare

"Republicans will protect Medicare for our great seniors — who earned it and frankly, have paid for it," Trump said in Indianapolis.

Trump has long vowed to protect Medicare in rallies like this one, but his administration's budget proposals and his party don’t always agree with him. The Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell voiced support for cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security in an interview last month, and Trump’s budget this year included a $236 billion cut to Medicare over the next ten years. The White House defended the cut by saying such savings would come through reforms, not benefit cuts.

Claim: Republicans protecting people with pre-existing conditions

"Republicans will always protect patients with pre-existing conditions," Trump said in Indianapolis.

We’ve checked this before at length. Republicans are suing to end these protections, they've voted repeatedly to repeal the legislation that first instituted them, and the alternatives they've suggested do not protect people with pre-existing conditions the way Obamacare does.