NEW YORK – Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said that as president he would use Medicaid to cover poor people who can’t afford private health insurance, and make birth control available without a prescription.
The comments appeared to differ both with what some Republicans have proposed in the past, and – in the case of Medicaid – aspects of Trump’s own policy proposals on his website. Republicans generally opposed the expansion of Medicaid to higher income levels under Obamacare, for example.
Speaking on “The Dr. Oz Show,” Trump said Medicaid, the joint federal-state program for the poor, should be used to help provide health coverage for those who can’t afford to buy plans from private health insurers. The show was taped Wednesday and aired Thursday.
“We have to help them through the Medicaid system,” Trump told Mehmet Oz, the host of a popular daytime television show and a cardiothoracic surgeon at Columbia University Medical Center. “People have said that’s not the right thing to say. But there is a fairly large percentage who can’t afford it.”
Trump has previously called for repealing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which gave states the option to expand Medicaid to higher income levels, as 31 states have done already. On his website, he calls for turning the program into a grant given to states, letting them manage the program as they see fit. His campaign site also says states offer Medicaid benefits that are too generous.
“Nearly every state already offers benefits beyond what is required in the current Medicaid structure,” according to the site. Under his plan, “states will have the incentives to seek out and eliminate fraud, waste and abuse to preserve our precious resources,” Trump writes.
It wasn’t clear if Trump’s remarks represented an official shift, or if the candidate was musing out loud in a way that didn’t amount to a firm policy position, as he has done in the past. A Trump campaign spokeswoman didn’t immediately return a request for comment about the remarks.
On birth control, Trump said that some women aren’t able to get to a doctor’s office in order to get a birth control prescription, and they shouldn’t have to.
“I would say it should not be done by prescription,” said Trump, who reiterated his anti-abortion stance. “You have women who just aren’t in a position to get a prescription.”
Some Republican candidates have supported the idea of allowing birth control to be sold over the counter in recent campaigns. They’ve done so in part to counter Democrats who accuse the party of waging a “war on women” through increasingly stringent restrictions on abortion.
The proposal drew the ire of Planned Parenthood, which said such a policy could actually be detrimental to women’s health and their pocketbooks.
“While this policy may at first glance seem like a step toward increasing access to health care, it could do the opposite, drastically decreasing access to birth control, especially for low-income women,” the women’s health group said. “Unless a special provision is made, insurance companies would not have to cover the cost of birth control purchased over the counter, leaving women to pay up to $600 a year out of their own pockets.”