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President Donald Trump (left) and Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (right) deliver brief remarks to reporters as they meet ahead of an event commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea, aboard the USS Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York, U.S. May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Trump: ‘Australians have better health care than we do’

BRANCHBURG, N.J. — President Donald Trump’s praise of Australia’s government-funded health care system has raised the ire of Sen. Bernie Sanders, a leading advocate of such single-payer systems.

Republicans have strongly opposed calls by Sanders and others to create a similar “universal” health care system in the U.S.

Trump’s praise for the Australian system came as he met Thursday in New York with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull hours after the U.S. House narrowly passed a bill to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, the health care law enacted by former President Barack Obama.

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Trump described the U.S. health system as failing, and added that “I shouldn’t say this to a great gentleman and my friend from Australia because you have better health care than we do.” He said the U.S. would have “great” health care very soon.

Sanders, the Vermont independent who sought the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, tweeted in response Friday: “Yes, Mr. Trump, the Australian health care system is a lot better than ours and infinitely better than the disastrous bill you supported.”

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders cautioned Friday against reading too much into the president’s comment. She said he was complimenting a foreign leader on the “operations of their health care system” and that he “didn’t mean anything more than that.”

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Trump seemed to contradict his spokeswoman a short time later, tweeting “Of course the Australians have better healthcare than we do – everybody does. ObamaCare is dead! But our healthcare will soon be great.”

Australia has a government-funded system that provides free or subsidized care for all Australian citizens and permanent residents, which is partially funded by income taxes.

In an earlier tweet Friday, Trump said his “Big win in the House” was “very exciting!”

“But when everything comes together with the inclusion of Phase 2, we will have truly great healthcare!,” Trump added in the tweet sent from his home on his private golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Trump was likely referring to regulatory and other changes the administration can make to the Obama-era law.

Trump was spending an extended weekend at his central New Jersey home, about 40 miles west of New York.

“Rather than causing a big disruption in N.Y.C., I will be working out of my home in Bedminster, N.J. this weekend. Also saves country money!” he tweeted.

The White House said he was holding meetings and making calls, but didn’t say with whom. Trump also signed a $1 trillion bill funding the government through September.

Trump spent just a few hours in his New York City hometown Thursday, but avoided his Trump Tower home, where security has been tightened and the costs for it have mounted since he became president. He had not been back to the city since leaving for his Jan. 20 inauguration.

Associated Press writer Kristen Gelineau in Sydney, Australia, contributed to this report.

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