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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images.

President Trump issued an executive order on Thursday pledging to protect Americans with preexisting conditions — which is not only toothless but also is only necessary if a Trump-backed lawsuit successfully dismantles the Affordable Care Act.

Why it matters: The presidential election is a month and a half away, and Republicans learned the hard way in 2018 that threatening the ACA's preexisting conditions protections is politically perilous.

  • But the executive order is yet another example of Trump's political gaslighting on the subject.
  • Executive orders such as this one "don’t have legal effect. They’re just internal memos with a fancy header. That’s all they are," tweeted Nick Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan.
  • Republicans have never come up with another way to offer the same level of protection the ACA does. If Trump succeeds in stripping the ACA's protections away, people with preexisting conditions would have every reason to worry about their coverage.

Trump also said that he'll be sending $200 prescription drug coupons to millions of Medicare beneficiaries "in the coming weeks," which STAT describes as a "nakedly political ploy to curry favor with seniors who view drug prices as a priority."

  • A White House spokesman told STAT that the money required to send these coupons would come from the savings generated by Trump's proposal to tie what the U.S. pays for drugs to what other countries pay — which is far from being actual policy.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
Nov 9, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Trump allies brace for 30-day legal war

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

GOP leaders and confidants of President Trump tell Axios his legal fight to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory — which they admit is likely doomed — could last a month or more, possibly pushing the 2020 political wars toward Christmastime.

Why it matters: Most top Republicans have followed Trump’s orders not to accept the Biden victory, and to allow all legal options to be exhausted. That could mean weeks of drama — and, more importantly, distractions from the vital work of transitioning government for a change of power.

Exclusive: White House meeting with members of Problem Solvers Caucus

Members of the Problem Solvers Caucus discuss the COVID-19 relief bill in December. Photo: Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Top White House officials will meet Wednesday with a bipartisan coalition of House lawmakers as the administration tries to enlist moderates to support the president's infrastructure proposal.

Why it matters: The meeting is something of an olive branch after President Biden's team courted groups of progressives to back the $2.2 trillion package.

1 hour ago - Health

The new vaccine threat is fear itself

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The FDA’s decision to pause the use of Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine has set off a chain reaction of fear — about the safety of the vaccine, and about whether the FDA is overreacting — that's causing unnecessary drama just as the vaccine effort is finally picking up speed.

The big picture: Throughout the pandemic, the public and the media, and sometimes even regulators, have struggled to keep risks in perspective — to acknowledge them without exaggerating them, and to avoid downplaying them because other people will exaggerate them.