Top health official won’t give plans for Obamacare
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price wouldn’t say Wednesday whether the Trump administration still supports repeal of the Affordable Care Act, days after his party’s efforts to overhaul the law broke down.
“We find ourselves right now in a position that the current system is not working,” Price said in a House subcommittee hearing when asked repeatedly whether the administration is aiming to repeal the ACA. “We have to fix the problem.”
Price and other members of the administration will play a crucial role in the success or failure of the ACA over the coming year. Decisions on whether to encourage people to sign up during the enrollment period later this year and how to enforce the law’s requirement that all people buy insurance coverage could either bolster or undermine the program.
Pressed by Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., on whether the administration still wants to repeal the law, Price said: “What we’re trying to do is make sure individuals have access to coverage and care.”
Republicans have sent mixed signals about their intentions for Obamacare. Even as President Donald Trump says the law is “exploding,” he has also said he’s ready to work with Democrats on health care legislation. On Tuesday, some House Republicans said they were still looking for ways to resurrect their failed effort to repeal and replace the ACA, and White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the White House was in an “ongoing discussion” with House Republicans to try to gain a majority on health legislation.
“We’re not going to create a deal for the sake of creating a deal,” Spicer said Wednesday. “You got to know when to walk away.”
Stuck in neutral, Price and the rest of the Trump administration find themselves responsible for a law they’ve repeatedly called a failure. Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress are looking for reassurance that the administration won’t sabotage the health coverage program, and will instead work with them to improve it.
“We would welcome your sincere interest in bipartisan work to improve quality, lower costs, and expand coverage,” 44 Senate Democrats wrote in a letter to Trump released Wednesday asking him to stop efforts to repeal the ACA. “We urge you to use your executive authority to support a stable, competitive insurance marketplace.”
Price wouldn’t say whether he’d commit to encouraging people to sign up for ACA plans, which the Obama administration had pushed heavily. The Trump administration pulled some outreach in the final days of the 2017 sign-up season, a move that has been blamed for hurting enrollment.
Insurers “aren’t certain given the current construct of the law they are going to be able to continue to provide coverage for folks,” Price said. “We want to make sure that every American has access to affordable coverage, whatever we can do to make that happen.”
During the hearing, Price was also questioned about enforcement of the law’s requirement for individuals to be insured.
“So long as the law is on the books, we at the department are obliged to uphold the law,” he said.
‘We want to make sure that every American has access to affordable coverage, whatever we can do to make that happen. … So long as the law is on the books, we at the department are obliged to uphold the law.’ Tom Price Secretary of Health and Human Services
Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price testifies Wednesday during a Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing. The hearing discussed the Health and Human Services budget.