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Trump’s claim that he predicted that Obamacare ‘can’t work’

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“The [insurance premium] rates are going through the sky. We all knew that. I knew it before it was passed. I have been saying this for a long time.”
— Donald Trump, remarks in Sanford, Fla., Oct. 25

“I think it’s a disaster, and I’ve been saying it from the time before they even voted for it. I said this is a plan, can’t work, it’s going to be a disaster. It was a big lie; that’s how they got it passed.”
–Trump, interview on Fox News, Oct. 25

“Obamacare is a disaster. And you remember, I called that from before it was approved. I said, ‘This can’t work, because it’s just … the plan is no good. The concept is no good.’”
–Trump, interview on “The Rush Limbaugh Show,” Oct. 25

After the fact, Trump often likes to claim he had great foresight. But then it turns out there is slim evidence to back up his assertions.

Trump falsely claimed he “predicted” Osama bin Laden was a problem, long before anyone had heard of him and that he should be taken out before he attacked the United States. His statement was based on a single, offhand reference to bin Laden in a 2000 book — written after bin Laden had been indicted by a federal grand jury and had told reporters that he planned to attack the United States.

Trump also has repeatedly claimed that he opposed the Iraq War when it started, when, as we have documented, there is no evidence that that is the case. Indeed, there is strong evidence that Trump actually supported the war.

So this made us wonder when Trump started to claim that he warned against the structure of the Affordable Care Act when it was passed in 2010. As he put it, he claimed that “the concept is no good” and that “it’s going to be a disaster” and that he knew the premiums were going to soar. Is that remotely true?

The Facts

We went through every transcript and interview that we could find from 2009 and 2010 in which Trump was asked about the health-care law. There were not many instances in which he was asked about the law and offered his opinion.

On June 29, 2009, Trump was asked by Greta Van Susteren on Fox News what he thought of the health-care legislation working its way through Congress. He said he wasn’t sure whether the country could afford it: “I love it from many standpoints, but can this country afford it?”

VAN SUSTEREN: What is your thought about the health-care reform that is being at least proposed, at this point?
TRUMP: Well, I think it’s noble, except I just don’t know how a country that’s in such debt — we are really a debtor nation right now, and I just don’t know how a country in this kind of trouble can afford it. It’s very — I love the idea, but can this country afford it? Will it destroy the country? Will it destroy other people that have been paying into health care for years? I mean, will that destroy other people? It’s a very, very tough situation. I love it from many standpoints, but can this country afford it? And maybe this isn’t the right time.
VAN SUSTEREN: And if we don’t do it, then — I mean, then people suffer. If we do do it, we go into deeper financial trouble.
TRUMP: It is a very, very serious problem, and that’s why it hasn’t happened previously. But does the country get into a deeper problem that ultimately is going to hurt everybody?

That about wraps up Trump’s comments on health care before it passed, except for a CBS interview on April 20, 2009, in which Trump simply said that Obama, whom he gave a B+ for his handling of the economic crisis, “has to watch health care.”

After the law was passed in 2010, Trump was asked about it on March 22 by Joy Behar on CNN. (h/t to Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star for finding the video.) Trump said he was “torn,” and he worried that the law “would cost a lot of money.” But he made no comment about the law’s exchange structure or the possibility that premium rates would increase. In fact, he said “something had to be done” to help people without health insurance. He even said that Obama was “looking like a hero” for getting the law passed.

Here’s the interview, followed by a transcript.

BEHAR: Okay. Let’s talk about the new health-care bill. What did you think about it? Are you happy about it? Are you —
TRUMP: Well, I’m really torn, number one, as a human being, I like to see people, it’s inconceivable that you know people are sick, like you or I get sick or the kids get sick and you bring them to a doctor. Inconceivable that you know 31 million people can’t do that.
And so on one level, I think something had to be done. On another level, it’s really going to cost a lot of money in terms of competitiveness with this country. You know the country is really falling behind other countries, in particular China. China is eating our lunch. What they’re doing to us is unbelievable. We’re not making anything anymore. And I have a friend as an example who runs a big company. And it’s going to cost his company over $200 million a year to do this. Now, again, you go back to the humanitarian side, Joy, but at the same time, this company may not be around any longer because of the cost.
TRUMP: So it is a very, very tough situation.
BEHAR: But do you think that Obama has gotten his mojo back?
TRUMP: Well, you know, it is interesting. It is like deals; you can make a deal and you’re a hero, no matter how bad the deal is, whether it’s good or bad, and I see it in business all the time. Somebody totally overpays for a company and everybody says great, great, what a hero and he’s really a hero until four or five years later when everything implodes.
BEHAR: Yes. That’s true.
TRUMP: And the company goes down. And then he gets thrown out of the company. I mean I’ve seen it a hundred different times where somebody buys a deal, everyone says it’s too expensive, but he’s like this great genius, gets salary increases and everything else. And then three years later, it implodes.
TRUMP: And the company goes out of business.
BEHAR: Right.
TRUMP: It’s a pretty tough thing but, yes, right now, he’s certainly looking like a hero.

On March 25, in an interview with Neil Cavuto on Fox News, Trump more forcefully expressed concern about the cost of the law, even though the Congressional Budget Office had projected that the law would be revenue neutral. “This country can’t afford it, and the competitive nature of our corporations obviously can’t afford it,” Trump said.

TRUMP: Well, people have said that we’re going to save or we’re going to spend money on the health care, but nobody really discussed the corporations and the competitive nature of corporations compared to the rest of the world, and I am just reading about Caterpillar with $100 million and maybe $100 million a quarter. I am reading about Verizon, where they are talking about the numbers are going to be tremendous, and when you add all of that to the health-care bill, this country can’t afford it, and the competitive nature of corporations, obviously, can’t afford it.
CAVUTO: I’m wondering too, Donald, what happens if big employers like you, I took it a lot of CEOs who are weighing very closely, very carefully whether it is worth it in future years to provide health care for their workers when they’re facing this 40 percent tax on Cadillac plan that may be the better part of valor would be junk the plans, they will pay the penalty and they’ll come out cheaper?
TRUMP: Well, people are talking about it. I have a friend who runs a big public company, and he said to me, ‘The company is going to spend $200 million a year on health care,’ and they don’t have that kind of money. So people are certainly talking about it. There’s no question about it, Neil …. The country has trillions of dollars in deficits. Companies are really between all of the environmental and all of the other problems that are being imposed, Neil, and lots of other things. They’re not going to be competitive. I mean, where is this country going to go? What’s going to happen in three, four or five years? Where is the country going? They can’t afford it and the companies can’t afford it, and I guarantee you, China, the Chinese companies are spending money like this or they’re probably not spending any money. So health care is a wonderful concept. And it’s there and I’m totally in favor of health care but you have to make it so that the companies in this country can afford to compete with China and India and other countries.

Trump did not really begin complaining about the law on Twitter until mid-2011. He has tweeted repeatedly about the law since then, hundreds of times.

Ironically, despite Trump’s concerns about the cost of the law, the net cost of the subsidies paid to people on the exchanges who qualify is running about 25 percent less than originally estimated by the CBO, for savings of tens of billions of dollars a year. (For more on the law and the premium hikes, read our explainer.)

The Pinocchio Test

Trump clearly thought something should be done on health care. When it was passed, he raised somewhat mild concerns about the cost of the Affordable Care Act and the impact on companies. But contrary to his current statements, Trump did not complain about the structure of the law or predict that premiums would increase.

Trump earns Three Pinocchios.

Three Pinocchios

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