Media Praise Rubio's Attack On Trump's Lightweight Health Care Plan, Neglect To Mention His Is "Vague And Inscrutable"

Media Praise Rubio's Attack On Trump's Lightweight Health Care Plan, Neglect To Mention His Is "Vague And Inscrutable"

››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

Media are praising Marco Rubio for attacking Donald Trump's health care plan as not having "a lot of there there," yet media are neglecting to mention it has been well reported that Rubio's health care proposal is similarly a "planlike concept," "vague and inscrutable," and "lousy."

Rubio Takes On Trump At Republican Debate

NYT: "At Republican Debate, Donald Trump Falls Into The Line Of Fire." In the February 25 Republican presidential debate, "Donald J. Trump came under the heaviest, most sustained fire he has received so far in the campaign," The New York Times reported:

Well, that escalated slowly.

In the 10th Republican debate on Thursday, Donald J. Trump came under the heaviest, most sustained fire he has received so far in the campaign. In previous debates, he was often barely acknowledged by his rivals. The questions most political observers had afterward on Thursday: What took everyone so long, and is it too late to matter?

For the first portion of the debate, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas mostly turned their swords away from each other and swung them at Mr. Trump. It was like watching opposition research books turn, page by page, as they hit Mr. Trump over the lawsuit he is facing related to Trump University, his hiring of foreign workers on guest visas for a Florida property, his donations to the Clinton Foundation, and his comments about wanting to be "neutral" on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [The New York Times2/26/16]

Media Highlight Rubio Attacks On Trump's Lack Of Health Care Specifics 

CBS' Major Garrett: "The Most Heated And Revealing Exchange Delved Into Trump's Vague Plans To Replace Obamacare." On the February 26 edition of CBS This Morning, in an interview with Trump, White House correspondent Major Garrett emphasized the candidate's "vague plans to replace Obamacare," and asked Trump whether "it would be worth [his] time to brush up more on the substance of either entitlements, health care, Israeli-Palestinian, any of those issues?":

MAJOR GARRETT: The most heated and revealing exchange delved into Trump's vague plans to replace Obamacare [clip].

[...]

In the aftermath of the shoutfest, Trump emerged emboldened and certain there was nothing new to learn.

[BEGIN CLIP]

GARRET: Is there anything about your experience tonight that tells you it would be worth your time to brush up more on the substance of either entitlements, health care, Israeli-Palestinian, any of those issues?

TRUMP: No, I think I did great on every subject tonight. [CBS, CBS This Morning2/26/16]

ABC's Jonathan Karl: "Rubio Needled Trump For More Details On His Health Care Plan." On the February 26 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, White House correspondent Jonathan Karl mentioned that "Rubio needled Trump for more details on his health care plan" and that "Trump seemed to get stuck on repeat" in his response:

JONATHAN KARL: Later in the debate, Rubio needled Trump for more details on his health care plan [clip]. Trump seemed to get stuck on repeat, just as Rubio had done at the New Hampshire debate [clip]. [ABC, Good Morning America2/26/16]

Matt Lauer: "Was This The Plan All Along, To String Together This Kind Of Substantive Attack ... At The 11th Hour?" On the February 26 edition of NBC's Today, host Matt Lauer asked Rubio about his "substantive attack ... at the 11th hour" on Donald Trump's lack of specificity on policy:

MATT LAUER (HOST): You hit Donald Trump last night on a string of substantive issues. Things like Obamacare, his hiring practices, Planned Parenthood, the vacancy at the Supreme Court. Was this the plan all along, to string together this kind of substantive attack on the 11th hour -- or at the 11th hour to leave this fresh in the minds of voters on Super Tuesday?

MARCO RUBIO: Well, look, the thing here is I prefer not to have a fight and argument with other Republicans, but Donald, as he reminds everyone, has done well in the early states. And we're on the verge of having someone take over the conservative movement and the Republican Party who's a con artist. He's out there telling people that he's fighting. You know, his target audience is working Americans who are really struggling over the last few years in this economy. But he has spent a career sticking it to working Americans. [NBC, Today2/26/16

CNN's John King: Rubio And Cruz Say, "You Got Nothing Else." During the February 25 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 Post Debate Special, CNN national correspondent John King discussed candidates Rubio and Cruz's suggestions that Trump doesn't "know what else" he would do on Obamacare, other than to "eliminate barriers on competing across state lines":

JOHN KING: Another thing Senator Rubio was trying to do tonight was essentially his version of Walter Mondale saying "Where's the beef?" on health care. He says that every time Donald Trump is asked about this, Donald Trump says, eliminate the barriers on competing across state lines for insurance companies and keep the one thing you like in the Obamacare, as you say the prohibition, you can't ban somebody for the pre-existing condition. Senator Rubio's essentially saying, you got nothing else. You don't know what else you would do. [CNN, Anderson Cooper 360 Post Debate Special2/25/16]    

Jake Tapper: Rubio "Made The Case There Isn't A Lot Of There, There" On Trump's Health Care Plan. During the February 25 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 Post Debate Special, host Jake Tapper -- discussing the debate with moderator Wolf Blitzer and question contributor Dana Bash -- asserted that "Marco Rubio made the case that there isn't a lot of there, there, when it comes to Donald Trump's position on health care reform, and what he would replace Obamacare with":

DANA BASH: Yes, they were calling each other names, and he had his box of opposition research, but what we came at them with were substantive questions. Not about --

JAKE TAPPER (HOST): You tried to steer them back to substance sometimes, especially on health care.

BASH: Especially on health care, and we wanted to get to the bottom of, what is your plan, Mr. Trump, the front-runner, for health care. And obviously Marco Rubio got in on that too, you know, they were going at it, but it was substantive on that particular point.

TAPPER: Sure, I think one of the big questions, and we'll see this on Tuesday, with Super Tuesday, with the results from those states -- was it too little, too late? I mean, it was a very strong performance by Marco Rubio, by Ted Cruz; Donald Trump, I think, as always held his own. But is it enough to knock Trump off his feet? I'm not sure that it will be. And also, will it matter? Like, Marco Rubio made the case that there isn't a lot of there, there, when it comes to Donald Trump's position on health care reform, and what he would replace Obamacare with. But does that matter to the people who support him?

WOLF BLITZER: We'll find out on Tuesday -- 11 Republican contests on Tuesday. [CNN, Anderson Cooper 360 Post Debate Special2/25/16] 

Fox's Carl Cameron: Rubio Attacked Trump For Saying That To Repeal Obamacare,  "All One Has To Do Is Remove The Lines Around States." On the February 26 edition of Fox News' Hannity after the CNN Republican presidential debate, Fox's Carl Cameron hyped a "big, big battle over health insurance" between Rubio, Cruz, and Trump. Cameron said Rubio emphasized Trump's past claim that to repeal Obamacare, one just needs to "remove the line around the states":

CARL CAMERON: This was a brawl befitting the last debate before Super Tuesday 2016, in what has already been four states of very little other than brawling. Tonight, Donald Trump was center stage and to his right and left were senators Cruz and Rubio, and they tag-teamed Donald Trump throughout the course of the evening. This was, this featured perhaps the longest segment of four candidates yelling, it went about 35 seconds at one point during the debate. Mr. Cruz and Rubio went after Trump for hiring illegal aliens in some of his properties. Went after him for his bankruptcies, for the collapse in a lawsuit against the Trump University and it went on and on and on, attacking Donald Trump, who aggressively tried to assert the various different issues that have made up his campaign, saying he'll build a wall. And when asked about Mexico's former president saying no way will they ever pay for it, he said, "I'll make it higher." It was an evening of one-upsmanship between them. A big, big battle over health insurance, Obamacare. Rubio and particularly Cruz went after Mr. Trump, saying that he has said he's in favor of socialized medicine, that in a battle with Marco Rubio, Trump argued that all one has to do is remove the lines around the states, referring really to interstate portability of insurance. But suggesting that that was really the only thing that was necessary to do in order to replace Obamacare, with only a few minor exceptions. It just went on and on and on, Eric. [Fox News, Hannity2/26/16]

Vanity Fair: "Donald Trump Finally Got Slammed For Having No Real Plans." In a February 25 article, Emily Jane Fox of Vanity Fair noted that "Republican front-runner Donald Trump got called out for having no specific plan for anything" at the February 25 Republican presidential debate:

It finally happened: Republican front-runner Donald Trump got called out for having no specific plan for anything.

Up until Thursday's G.O.P. debate on CNN and Telemundo, the billionaire developer had mostly gotten away with wrapping buzzwords in bravado and calling it a presidential platform--a strategy, for lack of a better word, that has won him three out of the four primary contests so far. Where most candidates have specific, detailed plans for how they will reform health care, grow the economy, and take out ISIS, Trump has a few phrases he cycles through and then moves on to talking about winning, beating China, and making America great again. His lack of substance may seem baffling to some and terrifying to others, but his supporters don't seem to mind. He has gotten this far without spelling out any concrete steps. Why start now?

Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz gave him reason Thursday night.

[...]

It was clear from both exchanges that Trump has few ideas, and lacks the intellectual curiosity to care. It is equally clear, however, that his supporters don't care either. The people voting for him are not looking for elucidated policy positions, but the appearance of strength. The question is whether Rubio and Cruz showed enough backbone to win over anyone on Team Trump before Tuesday. [Vanity Fair2/25/16]

The Daily Beast: "Robot Rubio Turns Terminator On Donald Trump." In a February 26 article, The Daily Beast emphasized Rubio's exchange with Trump in which he "pressed Trump for specifics on his healthcare plan" while "Trump talked in circles":

After Trump reminded the audience that Rubio had recently been roasted by erstwhile candidate Chris Christie, Rubio pressed Trump for specifics on his healthcare plan. Trump talked in circles, claiming he would magically create competition by "removing" the "lines around the states," and then claiming it over and over again.

Rubio gestured to Trump, "now he's repeating himself," he smiled.

The audience cheered. They got the joke--Rubio's robot reputation stems from his habit, most clearly shown at his disastrous pre-New Hampshire primary debate, of hewing to his talking points when flustered. Trump stuck his finger in the air in defiance, "no, no, no!" he said, "no no no! I don't repeat myself! I don't repeat myself!" [The Daily Beast, 2/26/16]

Media Previously Lambasted Rubio's "Lousy" Health Care Plan 

MSNBC: "When A Health Care Plan Isn't Really A Health Care Plan." In an August 19, 2015, article, MSNBC's Steve Benen criticized an op-ed written by Rubio describing his health care reform plan. Benen explained, "It's difficult to delve too deeply into the details because Rubio doesn't offer any" and noted that "the Florida Republican seems to envision a system in which consumers pay more for worse coverage":

Walker wasn't the only one talking about health care yesterday. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) published a Politico op-ed sketching out his own reform package. Alert readers may have noticed the similarities between it and a related piece the far-right senator wrote for Fox News a few months ago - much of it was copied, word for word.

It's difficult to delve too deeply into the details, because Rubio doesn't offer any - it's a fairly short, wildly dishonest op-ed - but the Florida Republican seems to envision a system in which consumers pay more for worse coverage, predicated on the assumption that under the pre-ACA model, American consumers had it too good.

The [Gov. Scott] Walker and Rubio plans are fairly similar, and [New York magazine's] Jon Chait flagged the key element that defines both policies: "Walker and Rubio are fairly clear about their plans for regulating the insurance market. They want to go back to the pre-Obamacare, deregulated system. They'd eliminate the requirements that insurance plans cover essential benefits, and let them charge higher prices to sicker customers. That's good for people who have very limited medical needs (as long as they never obtain a serious medical condition, or have a family with somebody with a serious medical condition). It's bad for people who have, or ever will have, higher medical needs." [MSNBC, 8/19/16]

Salon: "Marco Rubio's Lousy Healthcare Plan." In a February 4 article, Salon's Simon Maloy excoriated Rubio's health care plan, calling it "just as vague and inscrutable as what the other two Republican front-runners have to offer." Maloy continued, "None of this math comes anywhere close to adding up, and Rubio hasn't explained how he'll pay for his healthcare proposal (or anything else, really)": 

So the post-Obamacare solution for ensuring coverage, as articulated by two of the top three GOP candidates, is to undo regulations and figure out "something." But what about the third candidate? What about Marco Rubio? The Florida senator spends the majority of his time talking up his own electability and warning about how dangerous the Islamic State is, so he doesn't get pressed on healthcare too often. But he should, because his healthcare plan is just as vague and inscrutable as what the other two Republican front-runners have to offer.

The most detailed rundown of what Rubio has in store for healthcare policy is a Politico Op-Ed he wrote all the way back in August. Once you slog through the pro-forma denunciations of the Affordable Care Act, you come to Rubio's three-part plan for providing affordable health coverage: tax credits to help purchase insurance; "reform insurance regulations" and set up high-risk pools for people with preexisting conditions; and block-granting Medicaid while shifting Medicare to a "premium support system."

The first question that arises from all this is how Rubio intends to pay for it. "Perhaps most importantly," Rubio wrote in Politico, his proposals "will not raise taxes on the American people." So tax hikes are out, which we could have guessed given Rubio's enthusiasm to sign Grover Norquist's no-tax pledge. But tax credits cost money, as do high-risk pools, which Rubio says should be "federally-supported." Those high-risk pools are only effective if there's a ton of federal cash backing them up (best of luck convincing House Republicans to sign off on that). And keep in mind that Rubio also wants to cut taxes by something like $12 trillion while also creating new tax credits for families while also increasing military spending by $1 trillion while also balancing the budget and decreasing the national debt. None of this math comes anywhere close to adding up, and Rubio hasn't explained how he'll pay for his healthcare proposal (or anything else, really).

And, of course, there's the all-important coverage question. Rubio's plan has no specifics and makes no claims to covering as many or more people as Obamacare, likely because it can't. His plan imposes no coverage mandates, it doesn't set minimum coverage requirements, and it allows insurers to once again discriminate based on health status. The Affordable Care Act expands coverage precisely because it strikes a balance between mandates, regulations and subsidies - you must buy insurance, but you'll get help paying for it (up to a point), and it will cover a broad range of treatments. Rubio's plan would do away with all of that, which necessarily means that fewer people would have coverage, and that coverage would be less comprehensive. Repealing the Medicaid expansion would strip millions of low-income people of their newfound health coverage, and block-granting Medicaid will reduce coverage even further by giving states the "flexibility" to dump people from the rolls. [Salon, 2/4/16]

New York Magazine: "Rubio And Walker Show That They Still Have No Answer" To Replace Obamacare. In an August 18, 2015, article, New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait characterized Rubio's plan to replace Obamacare as "not so much plans as skeletal descriptions of planlike concepts." Chait goes on to say, "Both the Rubio and Walker planlike concepts share a basic structure and an extreme lack of detail" and, "Rubio's [plan], which repeats the talking points of another op-ed from a few months ago, contains even less information. And the lack of detail is not a matter of filling in the fine print":

Today, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio have published plans -- really, not so much plans as skeletal descriptions of planlike concepts -- to replace Obamacare. Their fundamental dilemma is that Obamacare provides a popular benefit to millions of voters. Appealing to the conservative base demands they eliminate the program that provides this benefit. Appealing to the general election requires them to promise something to compensate the victims of repeal. How will they fund that something? This is the basic problem that for decades has prevented Republicans from offering a health-care plan. Rubio and Walker show that they still have no answer.

[...]

Walker and Rubio are fairly clear about their plans for regulating the insurance market. They want to go back to the pre-Obamacare, deregulated system. They'd eliminate the requirements that insurance plans cover essential benefits, and let them charge higher prices to sicker customers. That's good for people who have very limited medical needs (as long as they never obtain a serious medical condition, or have a family with somebody with a serious medical condition). It's bad for people who have, or ever will have, higher medical needs.

Both Walker and Rubio promise to take care of people with preexisting conditions by creating separate "high-risk pools." That is a special kind of insurance market for people with expensive medical conditions. As you may have guessed, insurance for people with expensive medical needs is, well, expensive. Making that insurance affordable therefore requires lots of subsidies from the government. Where would Walker and Rubio get the money for that? They don't say.

Both the Rubio and Walker planlike concepts share a basic structure and an extreme lack of detail. Walker's document is a few pages padded out with ample white space. Rubio's op-ed, which repeats the talking points of another op-ed from a few months ago, contains even less information. And the lack of detail is not a matter of filling in the fine print. Both Walker and Rubio have signed the Grover Norquist pledge to never raise a single penny of tax revenue ever, under any circumstances. [New York magazine, 8/18/15

The Week: Rubio's Health Care Plan "Hail[s] From Another Planet, Where All The Republican Predictions About How Awful The ACA Would Be Turned Out To Be True." In an August 19 article in The Week, Paul Waldman lambasted Rubio's health care plan, saying, "There's a lot wrong with" Rubio's plan, "but what's most striking is how [he] ignore[s] the fact that doing what [he] propose[s] would be an enormous upheaval in health care." Waldman concludes by saying "I suspect they know what they're offering is a joke":

But this week, two Republican candidates, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio, have presented their plans, and more are sure to come. Walker's comes in the form of a pdf, so you know it's serious, while Rubio's is (so far) just an op-ed in Politico. But both of them hail from another planet, where all the Republican predictions about how awful the ACA would be turned out to be true (unlike this planet, where just about everything Republicans predicted was wrong), and switching to a newer, crueler system would be no problem at all.

There's a lot wrong with both of their ideas, but what's most striking is how they ignore the fact that doing what they propose would be an enormous upheaval in health care, more so than the implementation of the ACA itself was.

[...]

This is the place the candidates' health care plans come from. I suspect they know what they're offering is a joke. But now if anyone asks they can say they have a "plan." Just don't bother asking what would happen if it were to actually be implemented. [The Week8/19/15]

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