President Donald Trump does not understand health insurance. By this I do not mean to say that he doesn’t understand the complexities of the Affordable Care Act (although that is true), or that he had no real plan for replacing Obamacare despite its supposedly being one of his top priorities (although that is true, too). What I mean is: President Trump lacks even a basic understanding of how health insurance works.
I know because, in a July 2017 interview with New York Times reporters, he said:
So pre-existing conditions are a tough deal. Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, “I want my insurance.” It’s a very tough deal, but it is something that we’re doing a good job of.
Pity the person who had to transcribe that outpouring of nonsense. I could quibble with the punctuation, but let’s be honest: you could move commas and add dashes all day and never uncover what Trump was trying to say about preexisting conditions. What is clear is that the man who holds the presidency and leads the Republican Party, the man who never stops shouting and tweeting about how Obamacare is a disaster, thinks health insurance works like a pension. He thinks it costs $12 a year. And he is this ignorant after months in office. He is so completely ignorant he doesn’t even know it’s a bad idea for him to talk about it.
Perhaps more attention should be paid to this alarming fact? Perhaps it merits a follow-up question or two when Trump, without any prodding, reveals his fathomless ignorance in areas of great national importance?
There is no precedent for covering a president as incompetent as Trump. And so reporters go on treating him like they would any other commander-in-chief, instead of making his unprecedented incompetence the headline story it should be. In this case, no one replied, “Excuse me, Mr. President, but what you are describing is not how health insurance works”—at least not on the record. Instead, reporter Maggie Haberman said, “Am I wrong in thinking—I’ve talked to you a bunch of times about this over the last couple years, but you are generally of the view that people should have health care, right?”