On the campaign trail, Donald Trump has repeatedly promised to repeal and replace Obamacare.
But he's been even more vague than most Republicans when it comes to what, exactly, he'd replace it with. His typical answer is that he'd replace it with "something wonderful," which is a plan in the sense that become-a-millionaire is a career strategy.
At tonight's GOP debate in New Hampshire, Trump, who in a previous debate had some nice words for single-payer health care, was asked by Mary Katharine Ham about whether, given his various commitments on health care—he's also said he wants universal coverage that the government will pay for—he might actually be closer to Bernie Sanders on the health care question.
In his answer, Trump claims he's for common sense, and the proceeds to not make much sense at all.
I don't think I am. I think I'm closer to common sense. We are going to repeal Obamacare.
We're going to repeal Obamacare. We are going to replace Obamacare with something so much better. And there are so many examples of it. And I will tell you, part of the reason we have some people laughing, because you have insurance people that take care of everybody up here. I am self-funded. The only one they're not taking care of is me. We have our lines around each state. The insurance companies are getting rich on Obamacare. The insurance companies are getting rich on health care and health services and everything having to do with health. We are going to end that. We're going to take out the artificial boundaries, the artificial lines. We're going to get a plan where people compete, free enterprise. They compete. So much better.
In addition to that, you have the health care savings plans, which are excellent. What I do say is, there will be a certain number of people that will be on the street dying and as a Republican, I don't want that to happen. We're going to take care of people that are dying on the street because there will be a group of people that are not going to be able to even think in terms of private or anything else and we're going to take care of those people. And I think everybody on this stage would have to agree…you're not going to let people die, sitting in the middle of a street in any city in this country.
One problem with this answer is that Trump is wrong that "the insurance companies are getting rich on Obamacare." While it is true that the insurance industry pushed for and got an individual mandate to buy insurance as part of the law, as of yet they are not getting rich on the law. As Philip Klein noted earlier this week in The Washington Examiner, major insurers including UnitedHealth, Aetna, Anthem, and Cigna have all reported losses from their Obamacare lines this year.
More generally, Trump's answer isn't very good because it's not really responsive to the question. He insists he's not close to Sanders' view, and declares his support for competition and free enterprise, but doesn't attempt to square this with his previous support—which Ham quoted to him—for coverage paid for by government. He spends most of his answer ranting about how he wouldn't let someone die in the street (excepting, I imagine, those he chooses to shoot in the middle of Fifth Avenue).
The obvious takeaway from this response is that Trump not only has no plan to replace Obamacare, he has idea what he's talking what he's talking about when it comes to health care policy, and doesn't care that he's clueless. It tells us nothing at all about health care, but it does tell us about Donald Trump and his presidential campaign.
That Donald Trump is weak on policy is not exactly hot breaking news at this point in the campaign, but it's nonetheless telling that Trump, who has arguably improved as a candidate in many ways, has remained so proudly ignorant for this long.
Correction and update: In the original version of this post, I said that Trump was wrong to claim that he is self-funded, because his campaign is largely funded by donors. That's right, but I misunderstood and misrepresented Trump's claim, which was not about his claim but about his health care. That's still not terribly responsive to the question, but it was an error on my part, and for that I apologize. I also Trump's statement about state lines, meanwhile, is presumably a reference to allowing people to buy insurance across state lines (though his language is garbled enough that anyone not already familiar with this idea is unlikely to understand it). And it's still not directly responsive to the original question about Trump's support for making the government pay for universal coverage. Still, I've removed that language from the post, since it does at least suggest some sort of policy he might be in favor of.