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Promises kept? On health care, Trump's claims of 'monumental steps' don't add up

By Julie Rovner and Phil Galewitz, Kaiser Health News on

Published in News & Features

Trump often claims that his decision in February to stop most travel from China was a critical factor in keeping the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. from being worse than it has been. But the "travel ban" not only failed to stop many people from entering the U.S. from China anyway, scientists would later determine that the virus that spread widely in New York and other cities on the East Coast most likely came from Europe.

Although the White House has a coronavirus task force, the administration primarily has allowed states and localities to determine their own restrictions and timetables for closing and opening. The administration also had difficulty distributing medical supplies from a stockpile established for exactly this purpose. The president's son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner, said at one point that the purpose of the stockpile was to supplement state supplies, not provide them.

Testing was also a problem. An early test developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention turned out to be faulty, and despite continued promises by administration officials, testing remains less available six months into the pandemic than most experts recommend. Meanwhile, Trump has claimed repeatedly - and falsely - that if the U.S. did less testing there would be fewer cases of the virus.

But many public health observers say the administration's biggest failing during the pandemic has been the lack of a single national message about the coronavirus and the best ways to prevent its spread.

More than 200,000 people in this country have died. Although the United States has only 4% of the world's population, it has recorded 21% of the fatalities around the globe.

PRESCRIPTION DRUG COSTS

 

Trump pledged to attack high drug costs as one of his main campaign themes in 2016 and again this year. But he has not had the success he hoped for.

In one of the administration's biggest moves, the Department of Health and Human Services approved a rule last week that allows states to set up programs to import drugs from Canada, where they are cheaper because the Canadian government limits prices. Yet, it's unclear if the program will get off the ground, given drug industry opposition and resistance from the Canadian government.

In his health care policy speech Thursday, Trump promised to send each Medicare beneficiary a $200 discount card over the next several months to help them buy prescription drugs. The initiative is being done under a specific innovation program and must not add to the deficit. Administration officials Friday could not answer where they will get the nearly $7 billion to pay for what is perceived by many observers as a last-ditch stunt to win votes from older Americans.

The president previously signed an executive order that seeks to tie the price Medicare pays for drugs to a lower international reference price. The administration, however, hasn't released formal regulations to implement the policy, which could take years, and the policy is expected to be challenged in court by the drug industry.

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