By Alicia A. Caldwell & Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Friday that his predecessor’s health care law covers “very few people” as he minimized the impact of replacing it. That’s only true if you consider more than 20 million people to be very few.
He took another mysterious poke at Sweden, too, and decried open U.S. borders that are not.
Here’s a look at his statements at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday:
TRUMP: “Obamacare covers very few people.”
THE FACTS: More than 20 million people are covered by the two major components of former President Barack Obama’s health care law: expanded Medicaid and subsidized private health insurance.
The Medicaid expansion, adopted by 31 states and Washington, D.C., covers about 11 million low-income people, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The fate of the expansion is a major sticking point as Republicans try to complete their repeal plan. Sixteen states with GOP governors have expanded their Medicaid programs.
The other, more visible, component is HealthCare.gov. The federal website and state-run online insurance markets have signed up 12.2 million people for this year, according to an Associated Press count earlier this month, based on federal and state reports.
This is lower than the 12.7 million who initially enrolled for 2016. But it is not dramatically lower when considering the problems the markets have had with rising premiums and dwindling insurer participation, not to mention Trump’s vow to repeal the program.
Altogether, since Obama’s law passed in 2010, the number of uninsured people has dropped by about 20 million and the uninsured rate has declined below 9 percent, a historic low.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 48.6 million Americans were uninsured in 2010. Through the first nine months of last year, that figure was down to 28.2 million.
Although employers also added coverage as the economy recovered, experts say the vast majority of the coverage gains are due to Obama’s law.
However, the progress in reducing the number of uninsured people appears to have stalled. The 28.2 million uninsured last year, from January to September, is not statistically different from the 28.6 million uninsured for all of 2015, according to the CDC.
TRUMP, repeating a week-old assertion that Sweden is an example of violence and extremism due to immigration: “Take a look at what happened in Sweden. I love Sweden, great country, great people, I love Sweden. But they understand. The people over there understand I’m right.”
THE FACTS: Trump was ridiculed in Sweden after he warned at a rally in Florida that terrorism was growing in Europe and something terrible had happened in Sweden the previous night. But there had been no extraordinary trouble that night in Sweden, a country welcoming to immigrants.
Two days later, though, a riot broke out after police arrested a drug crime suspect. Cars were set on fire and shops looted, but no one was injured. Attacks in the country related to extremism remain rare; the biggest surprise for many Swedes was that a police officer found it necessary to fire his gun.
TRUMP: The U.S. is providing security to other nations “while leaving our own border wide open. Anybody can come in. But don’t worry, we’re getting a wall. … We’re getting bad people out of this country.”
THE FACTS: His wide-open border claim is bogus. The number of arrests of illegal border crossers — the best measure of how many people are trying to cross illegally — remains at a 40-year low. The U.S. government under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama roughly doubled the ranks of the Border Patrol in the last decade or so.
In addition, the number of people expelled from the country since Trump took office Jan. 20 has not been disclosed. No available data supports his claim, made Thursday, that immigrants in the country illegally are being expelled at a rate “nobody has ever seen before.” Deportations were brisk when Obama was president.
Altogether in January, 16,643 people were deported, a drop from December (20,395) but a number that is similar to monthly deportations in early 2015 and 2016.
This month, Homeland Security officials have said 680 people were arrested in a weeklong effort to find and arrest criminal immigrants living in the United States illegally. Three-quarters of those people had been convicted of crimes, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said. The remaining 25 percent were not. The government has not provided information about who was arrested in that roundup, so it’s impossible to determine how many gang members or drug lords were in that group. It is also unclear how many of those “bad people” have actually been deported.
That roundup was largely planned before Trump took office and was alternately described by the Trump administration as a routine enforcement effort and a signal of his pledge to take a harder line on illegal immigration. During the Obama administration, similar operations were carried out that yielded thousands of arrests.
TRUMP: “We have authorized the construction, one day, of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines. And issued a new rule — this took place while I was getting ready to sign. I said who makes the pipes for the pipeline? Well, sir, it comes from all over the world, isn’t that wonderful? I said nope, comes from the United States, or we’re not building it. American steel. If they want a pipeline in the United States, they’re going to use pipe that’s made in the United States.”
THE FACTS: It’s not that straightforward. Trump’s executive order leaves lots of wiggle room on how much U.S. steel is actually used. The order states new, expanded or repaired pipelines in the U.S. must use U.S. steel “to the maximum extent possible” and allowed by law. That’s not an all-USA mandate.
What’s judged possible in the Keystone XL project remains to be seen. Pipes for it are already purchased and stocked in yards. Contrary to his statement, Trump has not approved the project; rather, he revived it by asking TransCanada to resubmit its application.
TransCanada did so in late January while saying it needs time to review how any buy-American plan would affect the company. It has said the majority of steel would be from North America, but that includes Canada and Mexico.
Trump’s Jan. 24 order on U.S. steel has little effect on the Dakota Access project because it is nearly complete.
The order gives the commerce secretary until late July to produce a plan on U.S. steel content. The president’s choice for the job has yet to be confirmed.