What would a President Trump do with the U.S. healthcare system?
If the Republican presidential nominee were almost anyone else, it would be much easier to predict how things would go in January, most health experts agree.
Had Sens. Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio won the nomination and then the election, they likely would work with congressional Republicans to repeal as much of Obamacare as possible and replace it with a version of health reform similar to House Speaker Paul Ryan's plan.
Like his former primary opponents, and virtually every single Republican candidate since 2010, Trump has vowed to ditch President Obama's healthcare law. But it's less clear how he would actually proceed.
Besides repealing the Affordable Care Act, Trump has outlined six policy initiatives on his campaign website, which include expanding the use of health savings accounts and allowing insurance to be sold across state lines. Those ideas have been supported by Republicans in the past.
But on the campaign trail, Trump also has said he wants to allow Medicare to negotiate discounts with drug companies, a proposal that Democrats typically support. And when asked during debates to give specifics on how he would replace Obamacare, Trump mostly talked about ensuring people don't "die on the streets" without giving more specifics.
Trump also has made conservatives skeptical of his stance on health reform, since he has expressed support in the past for single-payer systems such as Canada's.
Nor does Trump appear to be tapping into the pool of conservative health experts who might help guide his decisions. Four former advisers to the last two Republican presidential nominees, Sen. John McCain in 2008 and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in 2012, said they hadn't been contacted by the Trump campaign for help.
The four include Lanhee Chen and Tevi Troy, who served, respectively, as policy director and special policy adviser to Romney, as well as former McCain healthcare adviser Gail Wilensky and Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who served as McCain's chief economic policy adviser.
The four also said they were unaware of any other prominent conservative healthcare thinkers working on his campaign.
The Washington Examiner asked Chen, Holtz Eakin, Troy and Wilensky for their best guess as to how a Trump White House would approach healthcare. Here's what they said.
Do you believe Trump when he says he would try to repeal the Affordable Care Act?
Chen: "I think unpredictability is the watch word here. He has suggested he would lead with repeal of the Affordable Care Act. I think some of that is going to depend on the composition of Congress. I do think politically he will need to follow through on some kind of repeal of the ACA."
Wilensky: "Who knows. I don't know who he listens to, so it's very hard to know. And honestly, I don't know how much he listens to others when it comes to these policies. Personally, I think the likelihood of being able to repeal the Affordable Care Act is extremely small, and the reason is because of the likelihood of split government."
If Trump were able to repeal at least parts of the healthcare law, what do you think he would push for replacing it with?
Troy: "House Republicans have put out a plan. They could probably pass it through the House, though the Senate is going to be a different story, but the idea would be let's see how this plays out legislatively. So I think he, in the end, would be supportive of that effort."
Holtz-Eakin: "He actually does have on his website a healthcare reform plan. If you look at it, it's got elements we've seen before. It doesn't seem to me he's worlds away from the kinds of things Republicans have proposed and the kinds of things that would maintain the desire for people to get help in getting their health insurance."
How would a Trump approach to health policy look different than, say, a Cruz approach?
Chen: "There is this kind of practical streak about Trump that makes it a little bit harder to predict. He might not be as doctrinal as Cruz would have been. My sense is Trump might be more open to keeping pieces of the law in place, enacting partial repeal, looking at provisions of the law that are controversial."
Troy: "Cruz is pretty consistent in his conservatism and has a long record and makes his point in a way you know where he stands. With Trump, there has been more wiggle room in his statements. I recognize people do change over time, but with Trump there is a little less sense that you know what he's going to do."
Wilensky: "I think [a Cruz administration] would have been a much more rigid administration which would have gone to the brink more often. I don't think Trump will do that. He is unpredictable … [but] he has indicated on several occasions he'll do what it takes to get things done. So it sounds like at least it would be greater flexibility in working with the Congress to get something done, but what he wants done is a little less clear."
Do you fear Trump would push for allowing Medicare to set drug prices, an idea most Republicans oppose?
Holtz-Eakin: "He's mentioned that, but it seems to have disappeared from his rhetoric and it's not on his website, so I don't know where he is on that as of [now]."
Wilensky: "I don't think he understands anything about the issues here, so it does bother me. He may well try to pressure Congress, [but] I think it's highly unlikely he would be successful. As a businessman who doesn't know anything about the history of it, he would be like 'of course the big payer would negotiate.'"
If a Trump White House offered you a job, would you take it?
Holtz-Eakin: "I don't think so. The reality is when you're at the White House, you're there to defend the president's program, and the policies he's backed — not just on healthcare — are ones I don't choose to defend."
Chen: "I'm not going to categorically say no, but I think there are enough differences there and I've been public enough regarding my concerns and criticisms, [that] I don't see that happening."
Troy: "My attitude is if any administration reaches out and asks for my advice on healthcare, I would give them my advice. It doesn't mean I would work for them."
Wilensky: "Probably not, but I would try to be helpful if I could."