Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price suggested Sunday that the nation’s health insurance system ought to operate as it did before the Affordable Care Act was passed.
During an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” Price was asked to respond to a blistering criticism of the Senate Republicans’ health care proposal by two major groups representing the U.S. health insurance industry. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) earlier this week, the groups called the latest version of the bill “simply unworkable in any form” and warned that it would cause “widespread terminations of coverage” to people with serious medical problems.
“It’s really perplexing, especially from the insurance companies, because all they have to do is dust off how they did business before Obamacare,” Price said, referring to an amendment proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that would allow insurers to resume sales of policies that leave out key benefits, such as prescription drugs or mental health treatment.
“A single risk pool, which is what they’re objecting to, is exactly the kind of process that was ― that has been utilized for decades to care for individuals,” he added.
America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association of America, the two groups who wrote the letter, oppose the latest draft of the legislation. They say it would allow insurance companies to discriminate among customers based on medical status ― essentially causing insurance premiums for people with pre-existing conditions to skyrocket.
In discussing their health care plan, Republicans do not usually speak as candidly as Price about returning the nation’s health care system to its pre-Obamacare period, a period marked by egregious insurance company abuses. Protections for pre-existing conditions remain highly popular around the country, and GOP lawmakers are loath to admit their policies would weaken them.
Prior to Obamacare, 79 million — more than one in four Americans — either lacked health insurance or were underinsured. The poor, especially, lacked adequate coverage.
In his appearance on “This Week,” Price countered by arguing that the Trump administration would be taking further administrative actions on health care and that the Senate health care bill is “not the entire plan.”
“What we’re doing over at Health and Human Services is going through all the rules and regulations that were promulgated pursuant to the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “Those places where it said the secretary shall or secretary may, 1,442 times, and we’re looking at those and asking the question does this help patients or does it harm patients? Does it increase costs or does it decrease costs? And where the answer is wrong, we’re going to move it in a much better direction.”