Just hours after the GOP's success in taking the formal first steps toward replacing Obamacare with a new health care plan that would substantially limit insurance coverage across the country, President Trump praised the Australian universal health care system in a press conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
"It's going to be fantastic health care," Trump said, referring to the American Health Care Act that just passed the House. "I shouldn't say this to our great gentleman and my friend from Australia because you have better health care than we do."
Australia's health care system is known as Medicare, and it gives all Australian citizens free access to doctors and hospitals. In contrasting, the AHCA would remove insurance coverage from approximately 24 million Americans, and would make it harder for people with pre-existing conditions to afford care. If you couldn't tell, one of these things is not like the other.
In an interview with MSNBC's Chris Hayes on Thursday night, Senator Bernie Sanders mocked the president for his perplexing comments, and vowed to hold him accountable:
The President has just said it. Let's take a look at the Australian health care system, and let's move. ... Let us move toward a Medicare-for-all system that does what every other major country on earth does.
Under the Australian Medicare system, the government subsidizes hospital visits and doctor appointments for all of its citizens by charging a small tax on the income of the country's wealthiest citizens. This is similar to universal health care systems that are available in other industrialized nations, like Canada, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. The AHCA, which would actually reduce insurance coverage nationwide, could not be more dissimilar.
It's unclear exactly why Trump made this bizarre comment when he met with Turnbull in New York on Thursday evening. It could very well be that Trump actually has no clue that Australia has a universal health care system. After all, he kind of has a history commenting on issues he knows nothing about.
For example, during the presidential campaign, Trump told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that the North American Treaty Organization is "obsolete." But in an April interview with the Associated Press, Trump admitted that he actually didn't really understand NATO at the time:
People don't go around asking about NATO if I'm building a building in Manhattan, right? So they asked me ... about NATO, and I said two things. "NATO's obsolete" — not knowing much about NATO. Now I know a lot about NATO.
It's a bit concerning — and embarrassing — that Trump may have just had a conversation with a foreign leader while discussing an issue he may know little about. It's even more troubling to think that perhaps Trump's comment stemmed from the fact that he really doesn't understand health care very well at all.
Whatever the reason for his remarks, Trump's decision to praise a health care system that is so unlike the AHCA just hours after helping it to pass in the House is unbelievably ironic.