President Donald Trump used time during the first presidential debate with Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden to tell his supporters to go watch what is happening at polling sites Election Day. (Olivier Douliery/Pool vi AP)
President Donald Trump used time during the first presidential debate with Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden to tell his supporters to go watch what is happening at polling sites Election Day. (Olivier Douliery/Pool vi AP)

The president slams the Affordable Care Act, but refuses to answer a direct request to outline his alternative.

With 35 days left before Election Day and six weeks remaining before the US Supreme Court hears a case brought by President Donald Trump to repeal the Affordable Care Act, perhaps the clearest point made during the first presidential debate is Trump has no plan to replace it. 

During the 90-minute-long debate Tuesday that was more sparring than policy discussion, moderator Chris Wallace from Fox News repeatedly reminded Trump of his 2016 campaign promise “to repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. 

“You didn’t do that,” Wallace told Trump. “You have never come up with a comprehensive plan to replace Obamacare.”

Trump countered by touting his ability to get rid of the individual mandate, which he claims was “the most unpopular part of Obamacare.”

But in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic that has taken the lives of more than 200,000 Americans, 1,300 from Wisconsin, former Vice President Joe Biden said people in the United States can’t afford to re-elect a man who does not care about them or their healthcare needs.

“He is not for any people needing health care,” said Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee. “He has no plan for health care.”

The state of Wisconsin once was part of the lawsuit to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But the state switched gears, separating itself from Trump and the other 18 states still part of the suit, when Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, and Attorney General Josh Kaul replaced their Republican rivals in 2018. 

“The future of health care is at stake,” said Kaul during a pre-debate watch party.

In Wisconsin, that would mean as many as 224,000 people would lose health insurance, including 41,000 young adults whom the law allows to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26. 

While the law enjoys majority support from the American public, individual provisions of the ACA such as protecting coverage for the more than 130 million of Americans with pre-existing conditions (including more than 2.4 million Wisconsinites) poll overwhelmingly well with the general population. 

The fact there is a chance the ACA could disappear during a pandemic is reason for concern, especially if Biden does not beat Trump, giving him the ability to put a replacement plan in place, Barnes said. 

“We are in the midst of multiple crises right now—an economic downtown, pandemic, climate crisis, racial injustices,” Barnes said prior to the debate. “We are doing everything we can at the state level but we know with a president who takes these things seriously we would be in much better shape.”

Biden criticized Trump for not doing a better job supplying states with personal protective equipment, his failure to pass a nationwide mask mandate, and generally not leading by example.  

“I mean, the guy is still holding in-person rallies in our state,” Barnes said in reference to Trump’s two scheduled rallies Saturday in Green Bay and La Crosse. 

As of Tuesday, Wisconsin is leading the nation in hot spots of the virus. The state saw an increase of 2,367 new cases Tuesday and an additional 17 people dying due to the virus. In all, 1,300 people have lost their lives in Wisconsin since the start of the pandemic.

People attend a socially-distanced, drive-In watch party for the first presidential debate hosted by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin in Madison, Wis., Sept. 29, 2020. (Photo © Andy Manis)

According to the Wisconsin Hospital Association, the number of patients hospitalized due to the coronavirus is now 646, with a record 205 being treated in intensive care rooms. The number of patients in an intensive care bed jumped by 32 from the previous day. 

The inability to contain the coronavirus is causing k-12 schools and college campuses to start, then stop in-person classes. Biden said Trump should have followed through on a promise to supply masks to schools and teachers. But failed to put a priority on safety. 

“Why aren’t schools open? Because it costs money to open schools safely,” Biden said. 

Trump resorted to his usual excuse, then blamed disinformation from other countries to justify why the United States leads most other nations in COVID-related deaths.

“It was China’s fault,” Trump said. “You don’t know how many people died in China, Russia, India. They don’t exactly give you straight answers.”

Biden and Trump also disagreed on the state of the economy, with Wallace finally stepping in to set the record straight by informing Trump that more jobs were created during former President Barack Obama and Biden’s administration than compared to the same time frame during his first three years in office. 

Wisconsin’s current unemployment rate is 6.2 percent in August, down from a pandemic high of 13.65 in April, but life in Wisconsin is far from easy for many. Some 200,000 families are facing evictions, roughly 840,000 residents had filed unemployment insurance as of August, and no additional financial assistance appears to be coming from Washington.

“The truth is, you can’t fix the economy until you fix the COVID crisis,” Biden said. 

Biden and Trump will debate again on Oct. 15 and Oct. 22. Running mates Kamala Harris and Mike Pence have one debate scheduled for Oct. 7.