"President Trump capped his fruitless four-year journey to abolish and replace the Affordable Care Act by signing an executive order Thursday that aims to enshrine the law's most popular feature," protections for people with pre-existing conditions, while "avoiding the thorny details of how to ensure such protections without either leaving the ACA, or ObamaCare, in place or crafting new comprehensive legislation," The Washington Post reports.
Stat News describes Trump's affirmation of pre-existing conditions protections as "likely empty rhetoric" and one of several "simple, superficial, and non-binding executive orders" that will neither "improve the quality of Americans' health care or lower its cost."
Trump was more bullish in what was billed as a health-care policy speech in North Carolina. "The historic action I'm taking today includes the first-ever executive order to affirm it is the official policy of the United States government to protect patients with pre-existing conditions," he said. His administration is backing a lawsuit before the Supreme Court that could strike down those protections, already enshrined in the sweeping law Democrats passed a decade ago, but Trump said he's "putting it down in a stamp, because our opponents, the Democrats, like to constantly talk about it."
Thursday's actions were "a tacit admission that Trump had failed to keep his 2016 promise to replace his predecessor's signature achievement with a conservative alternative," the Post reports. But that failure "has not stopped Trump from repeatedly promising a soon-to-come health-care plan in a repetitive cycle of boastful pledges and missed deadlines that intensified in recent weeks ahead of the November election."
Trump also "promised millions of older Americans would receive $200 toward the cost of prescription drugs and signed executive orders he said would somehow prevent unexpected medical bills," the Post reports. The $200 coupons, which Trump said will arrive for 33 million Medicare beneficiaries "in the coming weeks," are pretty clearly "a political ploy to curry favor with seniors who view drug prices as a priority," Stat News says. And it's not clear how or if the White House can legally pay the $6.6 billion price tag, though the administration pointed to savings from a regulation that hasn't yet been implemented.
You can read more about the $200 gift cards, Trump's other largely symbolic moves on health care, and the conference call in which Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Medicare administrator Seema Verma struggled to portray them as "historic" at Stat News.