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By Jane C. Timm

As the midterms approach, President Donald Trump has increasingly pitched his party to voters by embracing a wildly popular element of the health care law that the president and congressional Republicans spent the last two years trying to repeal.

“Republicans will always protect people with pre-existing conditions,” Trump said on Saturday in Nevada.

“All Republicans support people with pre-existing conditions, and if they don't, they will after I speak to them," he tweeted last week. "I am in total support."

The president hopes to soften the blow of Democratic attacks on the issue, but the evidence doesn't support his message. Let’s take a look at three of Trump's recent claims about pre-existing conditions, and the facts.

Claim: Trump "totally" supports protecting coverage for people with pre-existing conditions

“We totally support people with pre-existing conditions," Trump said at the White House last week.

This is false. The Trump administration is backing a Republican-led lawsuit that claims Obamacare's protections for pre-existing conditions are illegal. If the suit succeeds, insurers would be able to start denying coverage to those people.

The White House has not proposed alternative legislation that would offer those with pre-existing conditions the protections Obamacare gives consumers.

Claim: Republicans support it, too

“Republicans will always protect patients with pre-existing conditions,” Trump said in Arizona on Friday. "They're trying to put a false narrative out there — and if there is a Republican out there, him or her, let me know, and we'll talk him into it."

This is mostly false. Republicans have spent years trying to repeal Obamacare, and the party on the whole has not yet expressed support for the kind of health care protections for pre-existing conditions that exist now and are popular with consumers. GOP health care bill have so far softened such protections.

Supporting the concept of health care for people with pre-existing conditions, and supporting legislation that accomplishes it are two different things. Republicans in Congress have suggested legislation that would protect those with pre-existing conditions, but those bills have not offered the same, groundbreaking level of protection Obamacare provides: that a patient's current health could not be considered by insurance companies doling out plans, so people are not charged more or denied care because of their health. This is in part because Republicans vehemently oppose the individual mandate, the mechanism that forced the healthy to buy insurance or pay a tax, which helped make the bill work.

At the Nevada rally in support of Sen. Dean Heller, Trump said the GOP senator is already protecting consumers with pre-existing conditions.

“And the senator, as much as anybody, is going to do that. He is doing that,” Trump said.

Heller was an early supporter of an Obamacare replacement authored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., that wrote in some protections for patients with pre-existing conditions.

But the bill falls short of Obamacare's protections. Particularly, the bill would not stop insurers from charging sick people more than healthy people.

Claim: Pre-existing condition protections are a Republican thing, not a Democratic thing

“On pre-existing conditions, a lot of people think it’s not a very Republican thing to do. It is now,” Trump said in Tennessee.

If people don’t think this part of health care is a Republican thing, it’s perhaps because of the GOP's well-publicized efforts to undermine Obamacare.

Image: U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) leaves the U.S. Senate Chamber after a marathon attack on Obamacare at the U.S. Capitol in Washington
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks to the press after leaving the U.S. Senate Chamber after a marathon attack on "Obamacare," at the U.S. Capitol on September 25, 2013.Jason Reed / Reuters file

In the first few years after Obamacare was passed, Republicans voted to repeal Obamacare more than 54 times. And that was just the start.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, once spoke for more than 21 hours straight about his opposition to Obamacare, including a dramatic reading of the Dr. Seuss classic "Green Eggs and Ham" on the Senate floor. The speech was styled as a filibuster, but was not actually one — no vote was being delayed, Cruz was just making a memorable stink about how much he did not like Obamacare.

Upon retaking the White House, Republicans, who held the majority in both chambers of Congress, renewed their efforts to repeal and replace the law. A handful of Republican senators alone kept the law on the books by bucking their party's agenda in one contentious late night vote. Still, the individual mandate was struck down as part of the tax bill that Republicans successfully passed last year — a win Trump has consistently touted.

“Republicans — only —will always protect patients with pre-existing conditions,” Trump said at a Kentucky rally supporting vulnerable incumbent Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., earlier this month.

Trump's claim that Republicans — and not Democrats, who first passed these protections into law and have campaigned on protecting them ever since — are the chief defenders of people with pre-existing conditions is the biggest whopper of them all.