This March 15, 2019 file photo shows a view of the Supreme Court in Washington. The court is considering a case challenging the validity of the Affordable Care Act. Credit: Susan Walsh | AP

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President Donald Trump announced Friday that he intended to soon sign an executive order requiring health insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions.

“That’s a big thing. I’ve always been very strongly in favor,” he said during a press conference at a golf club he owns in New Jersey. “We have to cover pre-existing conditions so we will be pursuing a major executive order requiring health insurance companies to cover all pre-existing conditions for all of its customers. This has never been done before.”

It has been done before.

The Affordable Care Act, the landmark health law that Republicans in Congress tried to repeal for years and that Trump has long pledged to replace, requires insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions. It also prohibits insurers from charging more to cover these conditions, which include diabetes, cancer, pregnancy, mental health.

In other words, it’s such a big thing, and such a good idea, that it is already the law.

However, it is a law that the Trump administration is currently trying to have invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court.

So, if the president really wants to make sure that pre-existing conditions are covered, he’d drop his administration’s support for a lawsuit that is seeking to have the entire law declared unconstitutional.

The administration filed a brief in late June urging the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act. In the brief, Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco argued that the entire act should be struck down because the administration believes the individual mandate, a cornerstone of the law, is unconstitutional.

This follows a 2018 federal court ruling in Texas that found the law unconstitutional because Congress had essentially removed the mandate when it eliminated penalties for not complying with the mandate in 2017.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the individual mandate was a constitutional use of Congress’s power to tax. But without the penalty for not having insurance, there is no longer a federal revenue component of the law, which could put the whole law at risk.

If successful, the Texas lawsuit, which is seeking to invalidate all of the Affordable Care Act, would end a federal requirement that insurers cover pre-existing conditions. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, as many as half of all Americans have pre-existing conditions.

That’s why guaranteed coverage for these conditions is so important. And that would help explain why the president is promising to protect this coverage, while simultaneously trying to take it away.

Protecting coverage for pre-existing is popular among Americans. Seventy-two percent of Americans said it was important for protections for those with pre-existing conditions to remain in place, according to a July 2019 poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In Maine, lawmakers passed a bill in 2018 to enshrine the patient protections in the ACA in state law in case the federal law is repealed or invalidated by a court.

Friday’s announcement from the president isn’t about changing policy or suddenly supporting the ACA. Instead, the president is most likely trying to boost support for his re-election by advocating for a very popular policy while his administration simultaneously fights it in court.

Americans shouldn’t fall for it. This is truly a case of actions speaking louder than words. If the president truly wants to ensure Americans can’t be denied, or charged more for, health insurance because they have a pre-existing condition, he should stop trying to undermine the Affordable Care Act.

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The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...