Mystery $844B pot in Trump budget signals Medicaid cuts

President Donald Trump's budget request for fiscal year 2021 arrives at the House Budget Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Donald Trump’s budget contains an $844 billion mystery pot for his still undefined health care plan, signaling steep cuts to Medicaid and “Obamacare.”

That 10-year number represents hypothetical savings that would be used for a health care plan Trump has been promising since he was a candidate. His election-year budget released Monday repeats the pledge, but details again remain elusive.

The budget comes against the backdrop of a presidential contest in which health care consistently polls as a top issue for voters. Despite the strong economy, the number of uninsured people has edged up under Trump, and his eventual Democratic opponent is likely to have a plan to put the nation on a path to coverage for all. Meanwhile, the White House is supporting a lawsuit to overturn the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, jeopardizing coverage for some 20 million people, as well as protections for those with pre-existing medical conditions.

The $844 billion savings number “is a place-holder for their health care agenda,” said Marc Goldwein, senior policy director for the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “They are assuming a whole lot of savings without specifics at this point.” His organization advocates for reducing trillion-dollar government deficits.

White House budget documents give little detail about Trump's long-awaited health care plan while pointing to Medicaid as the target for cuts. The budget doesn't even refer to a “plan.”

“The president's great health care vision will ensure better care at lower costs,” said the budget overview. “Americans deserve affordable, personalized care that puts them in control and provides peace of mind.”

At a White House event with governors Monday, Trump repeated his promise to protect people with pre-existing conditions. Before “Obamacare,” such a patient could be denied an individual policy or charged more.

“We are always going to make sure that that's taken care of ... the pre-existing condition situation," he said. “It's a part of our society right now and nobody is going to change it.”