Trump is a menace to American public health

by Andrea Link - 2 min. read - (reviewed 2020-08-11: 1600 PDT)

Physician with computer

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

Trump, in February, spoke of the virus saying:

“When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”1

This is Trump discussing COVID-19 on February 26, 2020. He was either lying or delusional.

As of today, August 11th, 2020, we do not have zero cases of COVID-19, we have 5.1 million, and over 163,000 Americans have lost their lives.2

While Trump’s basic lack of understanding of disease, health and healthcare has been particularly striking in the last few months, in fact this ignorance, combined with an astonishing disregard for the health of the American people, has been a hallmark of his presidency from the very beginning.

Trump campaigned relentlessly on dismantling the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a program that, while far from being perfect, has provided needed health insurance for over 20 million Americans.3 Promising to replace it immediately with a “phenomenal” health plan, even his supporters concede that three and a half years into his presidency, he has yet to present even the talking points of a health plan, let alone enact any kind of a comprehensive healthcare coverage program.4

What he has managed to do is repeal the ACA’s individual mandate, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated will result in millions losing their health insurance and premiums increasing by over 10%.5

Other “accomplishments” of the Trump administration include:

1 - Axing the executive branch team responsible for coordinating a response to a pandemic in 2018,6

2 - Slashing funding for effective teen pregnancy prevention programs,7

3 - Allowing states to attach work requirements to Medicaid despite clear evidence that these rules are disastrous for health coverage while doing nothing to increase employment or produce job opportunities,8 and

4 - Cruelly instituting the “public charge” rule which requires immigration officials to reject applications from immigrants to enter or stay in the U.S. if they have received — or are judged likely to require — any of several public benefits such as Medicaid, in effect discouraging legal immigrants from accessing benefits to which they are entitled to under the law.9

While funding for critical public health programs has not been cut under Trump, it has not been for lack of trying on the administration’s part. This is one of those areas where we can be grateful for the White House’s incompetence. In fact, just before the pandemic hit, Trump proposed massive cuts to our public health system. His 2021 budget calls for a cut of more than $693 million at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a 26% cut at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, vast cuts in Medicare and Medicaid spending, and funding decreases for safety net programs such as food and housing assistance.10

While the pandemic is the most egregious example of his mismanaging of public health strategy, remember that this is the man who said “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine”11 just a week before the WHO declared the coronavirus to be “a public health emergency of international concern.”12

If you value your health and the health of your fellow Americans, the worst thing you could possibly do is give Trump the opportunity to give this country four more years of mismanagement, ignorance and cruelty.

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  9. The “public charge” rule (which seeks to give the US the ability to bar residency to individuals who the US thinks will become “public charges” and thus financial drains on the country) has been in effect since 1882. However, prior to 2019, the benefits that could be used to determine this specifically excluded things like Medicaid and food stamps. As of 2019, if a person applying for permanent residency or citizenship now accesses Medicaid, food stamps, housing benefits, child care subsidies (all of which improve public health) or are PREDICTED to use those benefits, they are now at risk for being denied residency because they could become “public charges”. ^

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