Trump’s Medical Care: Low Cost and High Access

Here, Trump stands in stark contrast to most people, who don’t have doctors at their…

Trump’s Medical Care: Low Cost and High Access

Here, Trump stands in stark contrast to most people, who don’t have doctors at their beck and call: A third of U.S. adults have said in surveys that they do not fill a prescription, see a doctor when sick, or get recommended care because of the cost of health care.

For more advanced medical care, Trump goes to a military hospital such as Walter Reed, where his suite includes offices, conference rooms, and a private living space. To get to and from the hospital, Trump has access to a helicopter and Secret Service staffers. For everyday people, ambulance fees are the largest source of unexpected medical bills.

From the very start at Walter Reed, the president’s COVID-19 treatment surpassed what most people would receive. Fewer than 10 compassionate-use requests have been granted for Regeneron’s experimental antibody cocktail, which the president took Friday, according to the company spokesperson Alexandra Bowie. The president was, presumably, one of those 10 people. “He would never have gotten access to the monoclonal antibodies if he weren’t the president,” says Rose McDermott, an international-relations professor at Brown University who has studied presidential illness.

Presidents also receive faster access to better specialists, in part because few can refuse such an important patient. (As Rob Darling, the White House physician for Bill Clinton, told the Los Angeles Times, “If the president comes to us this morning with a mole on his cheek, a dermatologist will be seeing him today.”) This might not always be a good thing, since VIPs like the president are sometimes overtreated by their starstruck doctors. Regardless, too much quick access to specialists is not a problem most Americans have: 51 percent struggle to find care in the evenings and on weekends without going to an emergency room, according to the Commonwealth Fund.

At one point, the president was allowed to leave Walter Reed before he was discharged to take a joyride and wave to his supporters. Though few contagious people would ask to do this, it’s unlikely that a hospital would let them if they tried. “They would never, ever let anybody else do that,” McDermott says. (A spokesperson for Walter Reed told me, “Our COVID-19 treatment plans are uniquely tailored based on the presentation of each individual patient, and these treatments also adhere to the most updated national societal guidelines.”)

For Trump’s four-day stay at Walter Reed, the hospital will bill the president’s health insurance, the White House spokesperson Judd Deere told me. Though Barack Obama bought his own health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s health-insurance exchange, it is not clear which insurance plan Trump has. Deere said that “the president received the same health-insurance options that are available to all federal employees.” He may have been referring to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, for which the government pays the majority of the premiums. (Here, too, the president differs from some of his countrymen, 8.5 percent of whom are uninsured—more than were uninsured when Trump took office.)