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Joe Biden targets Trump over Obamacare lawsuit during coronavirus

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event devoted to the reopening of the U.S. economy during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 11, 2020.

Bastiaan Slabbers | Reuters

Former Vice President Joe Biden plans to tear into the Trump administration’s efforts to scrap the Affordable Care Act on Thursday as the coronavirus overwhelms states that rushed to reopen their economies. 

In swing state Pennsylvania, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee will say scrapping the landmark Obama administration health care law would further burden Americans recovering from Covid-19.

The remarks will come as the Trump administration faces a deadline to file a legal brief in support of a lawsuit challenging Obamacare’s constitutionality. 

Democrats leveraged opposition to Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare in winning control of the House in 2018, and planned to deploy the same strategy this year even before the pandemic ripped through the country. Now, Biden is tying the possible loss of health insurance for millions to Trump’s inability to contain the virus, arguing it would worsen an already inadequate federal response.

“They would live their lives caught in a vise between Donald Trump’s twin legacies: his failure to protect the American people from the coronavirus, and his heartless crusade to take health care protections away from American families,” Biden will say of Covid-19 patients who could lose coverage if Obamacare is declared unconstitutional and complications from the pandemic get classified as a pre-existing condition. His campaign released speech excerpts ahead of the remarks. 

The pandemic has highlighted deep existing issues in the U.S. health-care system — even with Obamacare mostly intact. As most Americans with health insurance have it through their employers, widespread job losses after states imposed public health restrictions left millions in danger of losing coverage during the outbreak. 

Advocates for single-payer insurance have cited the disruptions as they push for a government-run system to cover all Americans. While Biden’s health-care plan would expand coverage through a Medicare-like public option, it would not dismantle the private insurance system entirely, as his one-time chief Democratic presidential rival Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” proposal would. 

Covid-19 has also brought racial disparities in health care to the forefront. While Black Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population, they have accounted for 21% of coronavirus deaths when race is known, according to the COVID Racial Data Tracker.

A Trump campaign spokesman did not immediately respond to a request to comment on Biden’s planned remarks.

Biden planned to meet Thursday with families who have benefited from the Affordable Care Act in Lancaster, Pa. Trump narrowly won the state in the 2016 election, and losing it this year would deal a blow to his reelection hopes.

The Democratic presidential hopeful has made Trump’s coronavirus response a centerpiece of his campaign. He has repeatedly contended the president was not prepared to face the pandemic, and plans to target Trump for recently suggesting he wants to slow the rate of testing to keep the number of positive tests lower.

“He’s worried about looking bad,” Biden will say. 

The U.S. has recorded about 2.4 million Covid-19 cases and 122,000 deaths — easily more than any other country, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

Cases and hospitalization in states such as Texas and Arizona have climbed in recent days. On Thursday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced the state would pause its reopening plans as the pandemic pushes hospital capacity to its limits in parts of the state.  

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