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Gov. Scott Walker is shown in the background as Donald Trump speaks during the first 2016 Republican presidential debate on Aug. 6, 2015. (Andrew Harnik photo) Gov. Scott Walker is shown in the background as Donald Trump speaks during the first 2016 Republican presidential debate on Aug. 6, 2015. (Andrew Harnik photo)

Gov. Scott Walker is shown in the background as Donald Trump speaks during the first 2016 Republican presidential debate on Aug. 6, 2015. (Andrew Harnik photo)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher September 11, 2015

Donald Trump wants to replace Obamacare with a single-payer health care system, GOP congressman says

As the Summer of Trump wore on, a quiet congressman from Wisconsin decided he'd had enough of his party's ostentatious presidential frontrunner.

Reid Ribble, a Republican from the Green Bay area, went public not only to blast Donald Trump's name calling -- particularly Trump’s calling Fox News talk show host Megyn Kelly a "bimbo" -- but to call him out as not being a conservative.

In one interview, Ribble made several claims about Trump's non-conservatism to Milwaukee conservative talk show host Charlie Sykes. One was about a so-called single-payer health care system, in which the government pays for care for all citizens.

"The interesting this is, I'm not the guy who's saying we should have completely socialized medicine," Ribble said Sept. 8, 2015 on WTMJ-AM (620).

"I want to repeal Obamacare and replace it with (a) free-market system. He wants to replace it with a single-payer system. That's hardly a conservative posture."

Sometimes Trump's positions can seem to be a moving target; and whether they are conservative can be open to interpretation.

But does Trump want to install a single-payer health care system?

Twice in the past two months our colleagues have reviewed claims similar to Ribble's. So let's start there.

First True

In July 2015, conservative columnist Erick Erickson wrote that Trump "has supported a Canadian-style universal health care system."

Our partners at issued a rating of True.

In 1999, during his short-lived 2000 Reform Party presidential bid, Trump told CNN's Larry King: "If you can’t take care of your sick in the country, forget it, it’s all over. ... I believe in universal healthcare."

And in his 2000 book "The America We Deserve," Trump made a strong pitch for universal health care. As to how the country might achieve universal coverage, Trump focused on a Canadian-style, single-payer plan.

So, Trump has supported single payer in the past.

Then Half True

On Aug. 2, 2015, GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry, the former Texas governor, said Trump is "for single-payer" -- essentially a present-tense version of the columnist’s claim.

Our colleagues found that earlier in 2015, Trump voiced admiration for Scotland’s health care system, which is single payer. But in another interview -- while stopping short of rejecting single payer -- he talked about offering private plans made through "deals with hospitals" that allow the government to help people "at the lower levels."

A spokesperson for Trump insisted at the time that Trump has "never supported socialized medicine," but is for "a universal ‘market-based’ plan that would offer a range of choices."

So as the 2016 campaign unfolded, Trump has said he admires single payer, but also suggested he prefers free-market models, as well.

Featured Fact-check

PolitiFact National’s rating of Perry’s claim was Half True.

The two fact checks were what Ribble’s office cited to us to back Ribble’s claim. (Trump’s campaign didn’t reply to us.)

But Trump has since had more to say on the subject.

Then what?

Two days after the more recent fact check, Trump was asked on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" talk show: "Are you for single-payer health care?"

Trump replied:  

"No, but it’s certainly something that in certain countries works. It actually works incredibly well in Scotland. Some people think it really works in Canada. But not here, I don’t think it would work as well here. What has to happen -- I like the concept of private enterprise coming in ….You have to create competition. And you have to go back to a system of private."

The no part of Trump’s answer, even as he repeated praise for single payer, seemed to indicate Trump does not favor it for the United States.

But he has since been less clear.

Two days later, at the first Republican presidential debate on April 6, 2015, Fox News host Bret Baier asked Trump:

"Now, 15 years ago, you called yourself a liberal on health care. You were for a single-payer system, a Canadian-style system. Why were you for that then and why aren’t you for it now?"

Trump answered first by speaking about foreign policy, then said:

"As far as single payer, it works in Canada. It works incredibly well in Scotland. It could have worked in a different age, which is the age you’re talking about here.

"What I’d like to see is a private system without the artificial lines around every state …..Get rid of the artificial lines and you will have yourself great plans. And then we have to take care of the people that can’t take care of themselves. And I will do that through a different system."

Again, a mixed bag: praising single payer, but advocating, if vaguely, for a private system.

More recently, Trump essentially gave no answer when conservative talk show host Sean Hannity asked him about single payer on Hannity’s Sept. 1, 2015 radio program. After covering other topics, Trump replied by saying:

"As far as single-payer and all — there’s so many different things you could have. Honestly, Sean, to do, to have great health insurance. The one thing I do tell people, we’re going to have something great. We’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare, which is a total disaster."

Our rating

Ribble said Trump "wants to replace" Obamacare "with a single-payer system."

Trump continues to praise single payer -- a health care system in which the government pays for care for all citizens -- at least as it used in other countries. But he has spoken a number of times, if vaguely, about a private system and at one point said he does not support single payer in the United States. Since then, his responses have been less clear.  

We rate Ribble’s statement Half True.

Our Sources

WTMJ-AM, Charlie Sykes interview (quote at 21:30) of U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble, Sept. 8, 2015

Email exchange, U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble Communications Director Katherine Mize, Sept. 9, 2015

PolitiFact National, "Is Donald Trump still 'for single-payer' health care?" (Half True) Aug. 2, 2015

PunditFact, "Conservative columnist: Trump once backed single-payer health care," (True) July 24, 2015

Reason, "That time when Donald Trump praised single player health care in a GOP debate," Aug. 7, 2015

YouTube, Fox News video clip of Aug. 6, 2015 Republican presidential debate

YouTube, MSNBC video of "Morning Joe" interview of Donald Trump (7:00), Aug. 4, 2015

TIME, transcript of Aug. 6, 2015 Republican presidential debate, audio of Sean Hannity radio interview of Donald Trump (12:45), Sept. 1, 2015

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More by Tom Kertscher

Donald Trump wants to replace Obamacare with a single-payer health care system, GOP congressman says

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