Donald Trump: Does he have a health care plan? Does it matter?
WASHINGTON >> Donald Trump's evolving ideas on health care do not amount to a full plan, and some proposals could mean new political and policy dilemmas for the Republican presidential front-runner and his party.
One Trump idea — allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices — puts him at odds with Republican congressional leaders who favor the current system of private benefit managers bargaining with drugmakers. It aligns Trump with Democrat Hillary Clinton, who also favors direct negotiation by Medicare.
The Trump campaign late Wednesday released a seven-point outline for replacing President Barack Obama's health care law and said it was based on "free-market principles." It included standard GOP ideas such as health savings accounts and no health insurance mandates, along with a proposal not usually floated by Republicans — permitting the importation of lower-cost prescription drugs from abroad.
"As far as substance is concerned, it is a very, very long way from a plan you could actually put in place," said economist Joe Antos of the business-oriented American Enterprise Institute. "It is still something of a mystery."
Antos is part of a group of conservative policy experts who recently produced a blueprint for replacing Obama's health overhaul.
Trump's plan "is not strictly a replacement for Obamacare," said Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. "There's no question Trump's plan would cost less than Obamacare, but it would also cover fewer people."
The Trump campaign says their candidate is only getting started and that more is coming.
"Frankly, right now nobody has a comprehensive plan," Sam Clovis, the campaign's national co-chairman, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
"Nobody has a bill that they put together, and it serves no useful purpose to do that," Clovis added. It would only allow critics to "nitpick you to death."
Trump has claimed that his plan for Medicare to negotiate prescription prices would save $300 billion, which is about what the whole country spends on such medications in a year.
That "feels like he is just winging it and making it up," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former Congressional Budget Office director and now president of the American Action Forum, a center-right think tank.
Campaign official Clovis clarified that the $300 billion figure would include savings from other actions, such as cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse.
But after reading the latest proposals from Trump, Holtz-Eakin said: "It looks to me like this is the staff putting the genie back in the bottle."
If Trump's plan is a work in progress, his own statements provide a rough guide to his views.
Trump's bottom line seems to be that people need access to health care. Trump has said he will not have people dying.
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