Trump says “nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”

Trump Says “Nobody Knew Health Care Could Be So Complicated”

Trump Says “Nobody Knew Health Care Could Be So Complicated”

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
Feb. 27 2017 3:25 PM

Trump Says “Nobody Knew Health Care Could Be So Complicated”

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TFW you realize that HSAs won’t solve the problem of outrageously high health care deductibles.

Andrew Harrer–Pool/Getty Images

Here is a thing that Donald Trump said about health care reform during a press conference Monday.

“I have to tell you, it's an unbelievably complex subject,” he told the reporters. “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”

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Nobody? Nobody! Of course, everybody knows that health care reform is complicated. This is something that almost every single politician in Washington understands. Republicans know it. Democrats especially know it, having tried to enact a byzantine private-public kludge known as Obamacare that, given the political constraints of 2010, may have been the only possible compromise with a hope of passing. You could can together a whole sizzle reel of Obama saying this stuff is hard, like this one, from Politico.

But this is how new information is refracted through the prism of our president's ego. Trump evidently did not know how complicated health care policy was. Therefore, nobody must have known.

But as easy as it is to crack jokes, I take this as a good thing for conservatives looking to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Trump's lack of engagement and guidance on this issue has been one of the chief complaints from Capitol Hill Republicans, who are struggling to unite behind a single plan. The fact that Trump now understands that health care policy is complicated means he is now paying attention, at least minimally, and may offer the GOP some semblance of direction. He even told a group of insurance executives Monday that a new plan was imminent. This time he may not even be imagining it.

Plus, during the press conference Trump said that Congress can't get to tax reform until health care is done. Given how badly Trump would like to cut taxes for Mar-a-Lago Club members, we can only assume he's finally motivated to get this repeal-and-replace thing squared away.

Update, Feb. 28., 2017: Or maybe Trump's health care proposal was imaginary after. CNN is out with a piece this week about the meetings taking place between Hill and Trump staffers about the GOP policy agenda, which contains this nugget:

Despite Trump's assertions to contrary, there is no separate administration-drafted health care plan in the works. A tax plan -- which Trump has also described as in the works and "brilliant," is also not formally written anywhere, at least in full form. These are issues Ryan, the former chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, and his team have worked on for years. The hours-long, late night meetings are designed to pass that knowledge on to Trump's team during the early stages of the process.

Perhaps when Trump says he has a plan, we should assume he means Paul Ryan has a plan.

Jordan Weissmann is Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.