Just one day after scoring a major victory when the House of Representatives approved a measure to "repeal and replace" Obamacare, President Donald Trump praised Australia’s universal health care system as “better” than that of the United States.
Trump first started praising the Australian system Thursday, when he sat down with the country’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull.
“It’s going to be fantastic health care,” the president said, referring to the House Republicans’ American Health Care Act. “I shouldn’t say this to our great gentleman and my friend from Australia, because you have better health care than we do.”
Trump chose to double down on the interestingly timed comment Friday afternoon, tweeting “of course” the Australian system is better than the health coverage provided to Americans.
Of course the Australians have better healthcare than we do --everybody does. ObamaCare is dead! But our healthcare will soon be great.— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1494011634.0
Trump’s affinity for universal, single-payer coverage is in no way surprising. In September 2016, then-candidate Trump told CBS News’ Scott Pelley that if he became president, he would provide health care “for everybody” through a system the “government will pay” for.
“This is an un-Republican thing for me to say,” he told Pelley. “[I] am going to take care of everybody. I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”
Australia’s health care system is mostly funded by taxpayer dollars, though it is necessary to obtain private insurance for some services.
As a result of the nation's Medicare plan, most Australians are able to see doctors and optometrists as well as undergo “most surgical and other therapeutic procedures performed by doctors” free of charge. However, they are not allowed to choose their doctor nor are they able to decide when they are seen.
Australia spends roughly 9 percent of its GDP on health care, which is partly funded by a 2 percent Medicare levy on all taxpayers and a Medicare levy surcharge of varying percentages for those “who do not have an appropriate level of private hospital insurance” and those with a single income of $90,000 or more, or families bringing in $180,000 a year or more.
Not everything is covered, though, under the public option. Medicare, for example, does not pay for all dentist visits, ambulance services, home nursing, occupational therapy, or eye care. Many Australians have to purchase private insurance to augment their health care needs.
Nevertheless, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I), a self-avowed socialist, pounced on Trump’s praise for the universal system, telling CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the president is “right” to suggest Australia’s system is superior.
“Well Mr. President, you’re right, in Australia, and every other major country on earth, they guarantee health care to all people,” he said. “They don’t throw 24 million people off health insurance. So maybe when we get to the Senate, we should start off with looking at the Australian health care system.”
White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, standing in for press secretary Sean Spicer on Friday, tried to downplay Trump’s comments to Turnbull. She said the president was “simply being complimentary.”
“I don’t think it was anything more than that,” Huckabee Sanders told reporters. “What works in Australia may not work in the United States. We’re focused on a health care plan that works here.”