Generosity, Meanness, And Health Care

The anti-Trump word for today is “mean.”

Every news outlet from the New York Daily News to CNN and the BBC have been headlining President Donald Trump’s remark (leaked from a closed-door meeting with Republican leaders) that the House health-care reform bill in its present version is “mean.”

He also told the participants that “we need to be more generous, more kind,” according to one of the senators who was there.

In the public part of the meeting, it was framed more elegantly: “I really appreciate what you’re doing to come out with a bill that’s going to be a phenomenal bill to the people of our country: generous, kind, with heart. That’s what I’m saying.”

That was quoted in the media too, but it didn’t get nearly the same play as the M word.

That’s because, as was gleefully noted, Mr. Trump spoke approvingly of the bill on May 4, when it was up for a vote in the House. Time magazine led the pack this week with a list of five different points the president said he found praiseworthy in the House bill at that time. He said it would make insurance prices go down, fulfill his party’s pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare, would be passed quickly, had great features and was good because of the talent that helped develop it.

Actually, there was nothing in President Trump’s remarks on Tuesday that contradicts any of the five points quoted against him.

Granted, he is on the record May 4 as calling it “a great plan.” Now, apparently, he acknowledges that he does not think it’s so great; at least not so great that it could not be improved upon.

It seems that after seven years of mounting frustrations with Obamacare, and weeks of infighting among the Republicans in Congress, the fact that a concrete, passable GOP alternative was finally on the table was sufficient reasons to celebrate.

In the euphoria of the moment, it was tempting to overlook some of the drawbacks in the bill. But during the intervening weeks, as the Republicans in the Senate struggle to reach a consensus, the president is rightfully expressing concern about some of the details.

We don’t know precisely what the president’s objections are because he did not specify which parts of the bill need fixing. He only indicated his general dissatisfaction with the text as it now stands and urged the Republican senators to come up with something better, something, well, nicer to people.

In the minds of those on the left, the president can do no right. If President Trump had continued backing the bill in its present form, he would have been castigated by Democrats for pursuing a mean healthcare policy; but now that he opines the bill should be more generous, he is castigated for changing his mind.

Nor did the change come on as suddenly as has been portrayed. His critics have overlooked a May 28 tweet in which Trump already signaled a rethink: “I suggest that we add more dollars to Healthcare and make it the best anywhere. ObamaCare is dead — the Republicans will do much better!”

Perhaps the time has come for the president’s critics to be a little more generous and a little less mean in the way they deal with him. Perhaps they should welcome his decision to urge Republicans to pass a health-care reform that will be more to the liking of both parties, and will ultimately benefit millions of Americans.

In the end, it’s not about Trump or the Republicans or the Democrats. It’s about all those people who depend on health insurance and are deeply concerned that the next round of changes in the system will only hurt them more.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who chairs the conservative House Freedom Caucus, rightly steered away from the unofficial and off-the-cuff, and focused on what matters:

“I have no knowledge of the president characterizing the health care bill in any other way than to suggest that we need to lower premiums and protect people with pre-existing conditions.”

Or, as President Trump suggested, “add more dollars to Healthcare and make it the best anywhere.”

That’s the bottom line. The rest is blather.