Much of the Trump interview centers on Trump claiming that new changes to the Republican health care bill will protect people with pre-existing conditions. In fact, its exactly the opposite: an amendment to the AHCA introduced this week would give states authority to let insurers charge sick people higher premiums.
Dickerson starts with a relatively simple question that is basically: how will this bill help your supporters? Here is Trump's response:
Pre-existing conditions are in the bill. And I just watched another network than yours, and they were saying, "Pre-existing is not covered." Pre-existing conditions are in the bill. And I mandate it. I said, "Has to be."
The first iteration of the Republican bill, introduced in the House on March 6, kept Obamacare's protections for people with pre-existing conditions. But a new amendment introduced this week to win Freedom Caucus support changes all that. It caves to conservatives' demand that to deregulate the insurance industry and let health plans once again use pre-existing conditions to set premium prices.
It creates waivers that states can use to let health insurers charge sick patients higher premiums, a practice outlawed under current law.
Trump knows there were changes to the bill. But he gets them backwards, insisting that the updates strengthen protections for sicker patients:
This bill is much different than it was a little while ago, okay? This bill has evolved. And we didn't have a failure on the bill. You know, it was reported like a failure. Now, the one thing I wouldn't have done again is put a timeline. That's why on the second iteration, I didn't put a timeline.
But we have now pre-existing conditions in the bill. We have -- we've set up a pool for the pre-existing conditions so that the premiums can be allowed to fall.
Trump is describing the evolution of the Republican plan backwards. The protections for those with pre-existing conditions have gotten weaker, not stronger. It sounds like Trump may be confusing pre-existing conditions with high-risk pools — which an amendment last month would have provided $15 billion more in funding for — but it's hard to tell.
Eventually, Trump becomes insistent that any bill he signs will protect people with pre-existing conditions. He appears to throw cold water on that new amendment, the one that won over the support of the Freedom Caucus. He describes it as "in one of the fixes" and that it's currently "changing:"
John Dickerson: In one of the fixes it was discussed pre-existing was optional for the states--
Donald Trump: Sure, in one of the fixes. And they're changing it—
John Dickerson: —oh, okay. So it'll—
Donald Trump: —and changing.
John Dickerson: —be permanent?
Donald Trump: Of course.
John Dickerson: Okay. Well, that's a development, sir.
This part of the interview is a bit bizarre. House Republicans have, at the behest of the White House, been working for weeks now to nail down a bill that their caucus can support. They inched closer to that goal when the MacArthur amendment created the pre-existing condition waivers, which clinched the Freedom Caucus' support.
Now Trump appears to be saying that he's ready to reverse course, that this part of the Republican bill is currently "changing." So either Trump is announcing a big policy shift that would likely lead to Freedom Caucus opposing the bill — or he's misunderstanding what is actually in the bill. From the interview, it's hard to know.