Biden attacks Trump health policy as 'cruel' in election battleground state

LANCASTER, Penn. (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Thursday condemned President Donald Trump for fighting to gut Obamacare, accusing the Republican of threatening healthcare protections for millions of Americans in the midst of a raging pandemic.

In a speech in the must-win election battleground of Pennsylvania, Biden blasted the Trump administration for its expected filing on Thursday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to declare the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, illegal. The law was the signature legislative achievement of Biden’s time as Barack Obama’s vice president.

“It’s cruel, it’s heartless, it’s callous,” Biden said, and would force families to “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 healthcare protections away.”

Biden, who has mostly stayed in his Delaware home since March amid coronavirus concerns, is slowly resuming some campaigning.

Trump, his opponent in the Nov. 3 election, traveled on Thursday to Wisconsin, another swing state, where he visited a shipbuilding facility in a bid to tout his record on manufacturing.

Recent polls show Trump trailing Biden in both states. On Wednesday the number of new coronavirus cases around the country climbed to a near-record high. In a later statement, Biden also criticized the Trump administration for ending direct funding of some coronavirus testing sites.

The president has said his decisions to restrict travel and encourage social distancing helped curtail the virus, but the United States has by far the most coronavirus cases and deaths in the world.

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Trump has criticized the cost and coverage under Obamacare and has been promising since his 2016 campaign to replace it with a better plan.

“The president will always support coverage for people with pre-existing conditions,” said Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh.

It was the ACA that prohibited health insurers from denying coverage to Americans with pre-existing health conditions.

Democrats expect to make their promise to defend Obamacare a marquee election-year issue after they used a similar strategy in 2018 to win control of the House of Representatives.

House Democrats unveiled a bill on Wednesday to provide more tax credits for low-income people’s insurance and more healthcare funding for states. Republicans are unlikely to support the bill.

Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw in Lancaster, Penn., and Trevor Hunnicutt in New York; Editing by James Oliphant, Bill Berkrot and Daniel Wallis