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President Trump in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo: Brian Blanco/Getty Images

President Trump outlined his ambitions for health care policy in a North Carolina speech Thursday, promising "the highest standard of care anywhere in the world," before signing an executive order guaranteeing protections for pre-existing conditions and then pledging to ban surprise medical bills.

Reality check: The only reason that pre-existing conditions protections, which are guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act, are at risk is because a Trump-backed lawsuit against the law is pending before the Supreme Court. Trump's executive order offers few details, and executive orders in and of themselves don't change policy. The order "simply declares it's national policy to protect coverage of people with preexisting conditions," Politico writes.

  • The Supreme Court is expected to hear the ACA case the week after the election.

Details: Trump's vision also directs Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to work to pass legislation that would ban "surprise" medical bills, and boasts action to lower drug prices. This "would require legislation passed by Congress," the New York Times notes. The president has failed to enact any major prescription drug pricing reforms during his four years in office.

  • The directive is backed by a promise to "investigate executive actions and regulatory actions that we can take that will ensure that patients are nonetheless protected against surprise medical bills" should Congress fail to pass legislation by the start of 2021, Azar told reporters earlier Thursday.
  • Trump further announced he planned to mail $200 discount cards to Medicare beneficiaries to put toward prescription drug co-pays.
  • In a briefing call with reporters earlier in the day, White House aide Brooke Rollins promised that the administration "will continue to invest heavily in research and innovative treatments for complex health conditions."

Between the lines: The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last week "raises the possibility Trump could add a conservative justice to the Supreme Court who could provide the decisive vote to strike down the health care law and throw the nation’s health system into disarray," Politico writes.

What he's saying: Trump painted the Democratic vision for health care as "a socialist nightmare" and touted his administration's efforts aimed at lowering drug prices and repealing the ACA's individual mandate.

  • "As we restore America to full strength, the first healthcare plan will be a core part of our national renewal," Trump said.

The other side: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the policy a “bogus executive order," adding, “If President Trump cared at all about people with pre-existing conditions, he would drop his lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act in the middle of a pandemic," the Hill reports.

  • Joe Biden tweeted: 'They are arguing to strip millions of Americans of health care in the middle of a pandemic. We can't let him win."

Go deeper

Dec 29, 2020 - Politics & Policy

House votes to override Trump's veto of defense spending bill

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The House of Representatives voted 322-87 on Monday to override President Trump's veto of the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Why it matters: With a Senate vote expected this week, Congress is one step closer to handing Trump the first veto override of his presidency — an overwhelming and bipartisan rebuke that comes just weeks ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration.

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.