KING OF PRUSSIA, Pennsylvania — Donald Trump ceded the floor Tuesday to his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, to make his campaign’s case a week out from Election Day for repealing and replacing Obamacare.
The Indiana governor, describing the Affordable Care Act as a “government takeover of health care,” pitched the repeal of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law as a key reason why voters in this key battleground state should elect Trump president.
But while both Pence and Trump sought to raise the stakes of the election by painting the health care law as disastrous to the US economy and Americans’ pocketbooks, neither offered any significant new details to flesh out how their replacement plan will affect Americans’ health insurance.
Trump and Pence reissued their calls to eliminate barriers to encourage competition between health insurers across state lines, make it easier for Americans to open health savings accounts and block grant Medicaid funds to the states. And while they vowed an immediate repeal of the law Pence called a “catastrophic failure,” the vice presidential candidate vowed a phased rollback of the government subsidies established under Obamacare aimed at lowering health care costs and promised to continue to “protect Americans with pre-existing conditions.”
Their push here in the all-important suburbs of Philadelphia comes after the government announced soaring Obamacare premiums last week. The cost of the benchmark plan is set to rise 22% next year, a sticker shock that Trump and Pence hope will work to their advantage.
Pence highlighted the fact that premiums were skyrocketing 116% in Arizona, 63% in Tennessee and 53% in Pennsylvania. He did not note that 85% of Obamacare enrollees will be shielded from these price hikes by federal subsidies.
Speaking the same day enrollment in health care exchanges opened for the coming year, Pence spent much of his nearly half-hour-long speech decrying the spate of premium increases the government announced last week.
“Obamacare is a catastrophic failure and Hillary Clinton says she wants to double down on that failure,” Pence said, even though Clinton has argued for reforming Obamacare to lower some of the climbing consumer costs brought on by the health care law.
Taking the stage after his running mate, Trump vowed to “immediately repeal and replace Obamacare” and said he would “ask Congress to convene a special session so we can repeal and replace.”
It’s unclear why Trump would need to call a special session as Congress will be in session after the inauguration of the next president. The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment seeking clarification.
Trump addressed Obamacare and his health care reform plans for just six minutes, most of which he spent decrying the soaring costs of premiums for Americans enrolled in Affordable Care Act health care exchanges.
“She wants to put the government in charge of health care in America,” Trump said, mischaracterizing his opponent’s plans. “If we don’t repeal and replace Obamacare, we will destroy American health care forever.”
Both Trump and Pence also blamed Obamacare for hurting the economy, with Trump saying “workers’ hours were being cut, hiring is frozen and wages are being slashed,” despite several analyses having shown this is not the case.
Trump then briefly ticked down his plans for a replacement, which he has previously vowed will be “terrific” and “much better” than Obamacare.
Trump was also joined by a group of members of Congress who are also physicians — including Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming and Rep. Mike Burgess of Texas — as well as Ben Carson, a top Trump surrogate and former neurosurgeon.
CNN’s Elizabeth Landers and Tami Luhby contributed to this report.