Politics & Policy

Ben Sasse Wants to Know: Does Trump Really Like the Obamacare Mandate?

Trump on CNN’s townhall debate, February 18, 2016. (Spencer Platt/Getty)

After Donald Trump embraced the Obamacare mandate Thursday night at a CNN town-hall event in South Carolina, Nebraska senator Ben Sasse took to Twitter to once again quiz the Republican front-runner.

Sasse’s questioning — not the first time he’s decided to take the Donald to task — followed Trump’s decidedly un-conservative remarks on the subject of health-care reform at the South Carolina town hall. Trump did say that under his leadership Obamacare “is going to be repealed, it’s going to be replaced,” but he also told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that, “I like the [Obamacare] mandate. Here’s where I’m a little bit different: I don’t want people dying on the streets.”

While Trump did take to Twitter Friday afternoon to repudiate last night’s word salad, it’s hard to read his statement — “I like the mandate” — as anything other than an admission that he would support judges in favor of compelling Americans to purchase health insurance.

#share#No matter what Friday Donald might say, Thursday Donald sided with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid on the Obamacare mandate.

Moreover, Trump, a self-describe “conservative,” announced to the South Carolina audience:

Now, the new [Trump] plan is good. It’s going to be inexpensive. It’s going to be much better for the people. But there’s going to a group of people at the bottom — people that haven’t done well. People that don’t have any money that won’t be able to be care of [themselves].

We’re going to take care of them through maybe concepts of Medicare. We have hospitals that aren’t doing well, we have doctors that aren’t doing well. You cannot let people die on the street, OK?

Now, some people would say, ‘That’s not a very Republican thing to say.’ Every time I say this at a rally, or even today, I said it — once, it got a standing ovation. I said, you know, ‘the problem is everybody thinks that you people, as Republicans, hate the concept of taking care of people that are really, really sick and are gonna die.’

That’s not single payer, by the way. That’s called heart. We gotta take care of people that can’t take care of themselves.

In fairness, Trump also deployed the totem of “competition,” a hallmark of conservative reforms designed to increase access to health care and lower its costs. But his “plan” was a monumentally vague:

The plans will be much less expensive than Obamacare, they’ll be far better than Obamacare, you’ll get your doctor, you’ll get everything that you want to get. It’ll be unbelievable.

But you’ve gotta get rid of the lines. You gotta have competition. Those people that are left — we’ve gotta help them live. And everybody likes it when I say it, and that includes Republicans. And it’s not single payer.

In what world would a truly conservative candidate have to constantly remind people that his plan is “not single payer”? Shouldn’t a conservative candidate’s health-care plan be so obviously the opposite of single payer that it goes without saying?

“Here’s where I’m a little bit different,” he says. Apparently so.

— Mark Antonio Wright is an assistant editor at National Review.

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