President Trump was confronted by a voter claiming to be “on the fence” about the elections over a question regarding protections for Americans with preexisting health conditions. The incident took place at a town hall event hosted by ABC News in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday evening.
Ellesia Blaque, an English professor at Kutztown University, explained to Trump that she has had a medical condition since birth which requires consistent care and if she is unable to access the necessary medication, she could die within three to four days.
“Should preexisting conditions, which Obamacare brought to fruition, be removed without–” Blaque began.
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Before she could complete her question, Trump loudly interrupted her with a “No” that drowned out the rest of her question.
“Please stop and let me finish my question, sir,” Blaque reprimanded the president.
She then continued her remarks, unimpeded by Trump, saying:
“I want to know what it is you’re going to do to assure that people like me … can stay insured. It’s not my fault that I was born with this disease. It’s not my fault that I’m a Black woman, and that in the medical community I’m minimized and not taken seriously.”
"You've been trying to strike down pre-existing conditions."
In a @ABC2020 town hall, @GStephanopoulos presses Pres. Trump on claim he's preserving pre-existing conditions—as his administration argues in court against Obamacare, which protects them. Watch the full exchange. pic.twitter.com/GuOyqUKhen
— ABC News (@ABC) September 16, 2020
Trump responded by claiming he had no plans to touch protections for those with preexisting medical needs. “We are not going to hurt anything to do with preexisting conditions,” he said.
The moderator of the event, ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos, followed up on the matter, pointing out to Trump that several actions his administration has taken could indeed have removed those protections that make it illegal for insurance companies to deny care to individuals on the basis of having had a medical condition in the past.
The journalist also asked Trump about a health care plan the president had said he would be releasing soon, but which has yet to be seen. Trump had promised Stephanopoulos three months ago that his plan to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), sometimes known as Obamacare, would be ready for the American people to inspect “within weeks.”
But Trump avoided answering the question, arguing instead that he had already “essentially” repealed the ACA by ending the mandate for purchasing health insurance coverage, before reiterating, without anything to back up his claim, that he was for protecting preexisting conditions.
“The preexisting conditions aspect” of his health care agenda, Trump added, “will always be a part of my plan.”
That statement, however, is far from true judging by the Trump administration’s actions and statements made by the president himself.
In January of this year, Trump falsely claimed he “saved” protections for preexisting conditions from being removed, when in fact, his actions did nothing of the sort, a number of fact-checking websites determined.
Early in his presidential term, Trump had sought to repeal and replace the ACA but failed when the then-Republican-controlled Congress disagreed with his proposals. Ending the ACA at that time would have removed protections for people with preexisting conditions.
This summer, the Trump administration also filed a legal brief with the Supreme Court, urging justices to strike down the entirety of the ACA. Doing so would certainly end any protections for preexisting conditions afforded by the ACA, especially since the administration has not offered a plan to replace the ACA if it were deemed unconstitutional.
A report out on Wednesday noted that insurance coverage for Americans had contracted in 2019, with more 30 million going without coverage at some point in that year, possibly because of Trump’s attempts to dismantle the ACA over the past few years.
“President Trump has been unsuccessful in repealing the ACA, but he has taken steps to weaken the law and that [is] showing up in these numbers,” Kaiser Family Foundation Executive Vice President for Health Policy Larry Levitt said.
After the town hall event concluded on Tuesday, Blaque was asked whether she was satisfied with Trump’s response to her question. She indicated that she was not.
“He didn’t answer my question,” Blaque said, adding that before Tuesday night she had been “on the fence” about voting, but after her interaction with Trump, she says she’s planning to vote for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in this year’s presidential race.
The interaction with Trump “reanimated me to vote,” Blaque concluded.