By JILL COLVIN and ZEKE MILLER
WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Donald Trump threatened over the weekend to reopen the contentious fight over the Affordable Care Act after failing to repeal it while in the White House, saying he is “seriously looking at alternatives” if he wins a second term.
Trump’s comments drew rebuke from Democratic President Joe Biden ‘s campaign, which cast them as another “extremist” proposal from the GOP front-runner. And they rapidly moved to mobilize a response, including new advertising in battleground states contrasting Biden’s efforts to lower drug costs with Trump’s comments.
“Donald Trump is campaigning on a threat to rip away health care from millions of Americans, so we’re going to use every tool in our arsenal to make sure the American people know that lives are literally on the line next November,” said Biden campaign communications director Michael Tyler.
The back-and-forth points to what could be a key issue in a general election rematch between Trump and Biden if both win their parties’ nominations, as is widely expected.
Biden’s team has long operated under the assumption that Trump would be the GOP nominee, given his commanding lead in the polls, and has stepped up efforts in recent weeks to cast his proposals as extreme and to paint him as a danger to democracy. Biden, in particular, has begun painting a vision of a catastrophic future if Trump wins — a strategy that could motivate lukewarm Democratic voters who may be driven more by a desire to stop Trump than to deliver a second term to Biden amid lingering concerns over high inflation, the direction of the country and his age.
Health care has generally been a better issue for Democrats than Republicans, who have largely abandoned efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act in recent years.
And Biden’s campaign quickly seized the opportunity. Beyond the new ads, the campaign will host a press call Tuesday with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper to highlight the potential impact of repealing the law, while state Democratic parties in swing states will host their own events.
“Donald Trump’s America is one where millions of people lose their health insurance and seniors and families across the country face exorbitant costs just to stay healthy. Those are the stakes next November,” Biden-Harris 2024 spokesperson Ammar Moussa said in a statement.
Trump has not spent much time discussing health care as he has laid out an aggressive agenda for a potential second term that has focused on immigration crackdowns and mass deportations, as well as efforts to target political rivals.
But Trump weighed in on the issue Saturday morning on his Truth Social site.
“The cost of Obamacare is out of control, plus, it’s not good Healthcare. I’m seriously looking at alternatives,” he wrote. “We had a couple of Republican Senators who campaigned for 6 years against it, and then raised their hands not to terminate it. It was a low point for the Republican Party, but we should never give up!”
He was referring to July 2017, when the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., blocked Trump’s long effort to repeal the health care law, which has proven increasingly popular.
About 6 in 10 Americans say they have a favorable opinion of the health reform bill signed into law in 2010, known commonly as the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, according to a KFF poll conducted in May 2023.
A recent ABC News/Ipsos poll found 37% of Americans trust Democrats to do a better job than Republicans on handling health care, versus about 1 in 5 — 18% — who trust Republicans over Democrats on this issue. About one-third (34%) trust neither party.
Still, a June 2023 AP-NORC poll showed a minority of U.S. adults — 44% — approving of how Biden was handling health care, with 53% disapproving. That included 69% of Democrats and 17% of Republicans — measurements in line with Biden’s overall job approval.
Trump’s comments came in response to a Wall Street Journal op-ed he shared highlighting concerns raised by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Mike Braun, R-Ind., that large insurance companies are using their pharmacies “to evade federal requirements that limit the percentage of premium dollars spent on profits and administration, known as the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR), resulting in sky-high prescription drug costs and excessive corporate profits.”
Biden’s Health and Human Services Department says more than 40 million are insured through coverage related to provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
Moussa said Trump “would try to rip it away if he returns to power. He was one vote away from getting it done when he was president — and we should take him at his word that he’ll try to do it again.”
___ Colvin reported from New York. Linley Sanders contributed to this report.