Today’s courtesy hearing for Congressman Tom Price (R-GA), President-elect Trump’s nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary, in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee raised more questions than answers. Recently, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that repealing portions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would increase premiums by 20-25 percent and leave 18 million people uninsured within the first year. Price did not address those staggering statistics at all. Instead, he insisted that the administration’s plan would not leave millions without coverage and would cover more people than the ACA. Unfortunately, he did not provide any details about the plan.
Sen. Alexander, Chairman of the HELP Committee, asked Price if the administration’s plan would be a quick fix. Price assured him it would not be and that everyone would have access to high-quality health care. “We don’t intend to replace a Democratic plan with a Republican plan,” said Price. Chairman Alexander committed to a “step-by-step” process to repeal ACA and devise a long-term solution for all Americans. Alexander continued by saying the final plan should focus on employer coverage, Medicaid and the individual marketplace. Price still didn’t commit to details, but said that the plan would provide access to coverage and that full repeal would not be finalized until a replacement plan was in place.
Not knowing what the administration’s proposal entails, legislation that Price has introduced since 2009 gives us some indication of what to expect in the final plan. Price’s bill would repeal the ACA’s Medicaid expansion; favor young and healthy Americans, while putting coverage for people with pre-existing conditions at risk. Democratic members of the Committee pointed out the inconsistencies with what Price said at today’s hearing to what he has said in the past. Despite their questions, Price would not commit to maintaining the ACA’s protections for people with disabilities, women, mental health, or addiction. He also did not commit to shield Medicare or Medicaid funding from cuts. Price, a former orthopedic surgeon, later came under fire from Democrats for allegedly profiting from inside information on healthcare stocks and benefiting from legislation he helped write while serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Health subcommittee. Price insisted that he had done nothing inappropriate, as he used a broker and wasn’t aware of the stocks he owned.
Price will come before the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over his nomination, on January 24th at 10am. In advance of the Finance hearing, ANA is sharing our priorities and offering questions to Committee champions to get Price on record affirming his support for improving access, quality, and affordability of healthcare.