ORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Donald Trump is remaining firm on a sticking point for many Republican voters — government-funded health care for all.
One of his top rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, has hit Trump hard on this issue in recent weeks. Cruz’s campaign has dubbed Trump’s plan “Trumpcare” and likened it to “Hillarycare” and “Obamacare.” Last week, a super PAC supporting Cruz ran an attack ad on the subject in Iowa.
But Trump isn’t backing down.
“We do need health care for all people,” Trump said at a rally here this week. “What are we gonna do, let people die in the street?”
Trump has said he doesn’t support Obamacare but does believe the government should pay for health insurance for all. “I wanna get rid of Obamacare. I want to get you something good,” he said at the rally. He didn’t offer specifics.
This isn’t the first time Trump has taken a health care stance heretical to many in the the GOP. Late last month, he said he wanted to let Medicare negotiate prescription drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. That’s an idea Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have been pushing. Rank-and-file voters seem to like it, but it’s been anathema to the GOP establishment, which prefers to talk about speeding up drug approvals and spurring competition to bring down prices.
Cruz sees himself as taking a harder line than Trump on health care issues.
“We need to repeal every word of Obamacare,” Cruz said at a town hall meeting in Portsmouth on Thursday. Cruz is a staunch opponent of abortion, as well as some forms of contraception, but on other health care fronts he pledged to enact reform that “keeps government from getting between us and our doctors.”
To some Cruz supporters, that sounds just right.
“I don’t think the government should be able to force you to purchase anything,” said Ted Langford of Raymond, N.H., who has committed to supporting Cruz and attended the town hall. He said he’s wary of Trump in part because of his position on health care.
Danielle Maxwell of Portsmouth, another Cruz backer, said she too was put off by Trump’s endorsement of universal health care. “It’s rationing of care, it’s death panels, it’s euthanasia,” Maxwell said.
Both Trump and Cruz have harped on concerns about Obamacare driving up costs. Premiums rose by an average of 2 percent in 2015, and it’s estimated that they will spike another 7.5 percent this year.
But millions of people are still flocking to enroll in insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act. New data released this week by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that 12.7 million Americans signed up on government exchanges in 2015.
And a report issued last year by Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said tax credits should help alleviate the costs. In the 38 states offering insurance plans through the federal exchange, Burwell said 80 percent of returning customers should be able to buy a plan with premiums under $100 a month after tax credits.
Another Obamacare component both Trump and Cruz love to hate? High deductibles.
“How about your deductibles? You have to be dead before you can use them,” Trump said at his Thursday night rally. A New York Times review of insurance plans offered through Healthcare.gov last year found that in many states, more than half the plans have a deductible that runs $3,000 or more.
Even without hearing specifics of Trump’s health care plan, some voters said they’re satisfied he would improve matters.
As Robin Lopilato of Kittery, Maine, put it: “Anything is going to be better than Obamacare.”