(NationalSentinel) While Republicans in Congress continue to dither on about Obamacare, with many afraid to touch the former president’s signature legislation because of the “optics” surrounding repeal, new Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price can take some action on his own to begin providing at least some relief to beleaguered Americans.
As reported by The Daily Signal, Price – whom Democrats held up as long as they could like they have most of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks – an orthopedic surgeon who served longer than 10 years in the House, has put forth his own health care reform plan since 2009, the year majority Democrats introduced the Affordable Care Act.
Price, who reintroduced his legislation every year since, calls it The Empowering Patients First Act (what a concept); given his background of actually having worked in the health care industry, that puts him head and shoulders above most other members of government, including the remaining Democrats who helped saddle the country with Obamacare.
So what can the country expect moving forward? The Daily Signal notes:
The Georgia Republican will take the helm of the agency at a crucial time. GOP lawmakers are debating how to dismantle the law, with a vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act expected to take place by March or April.
But even as congressional Republicans finalize their course for unwinding the law, Price can now use his executive power to begin chipping away at Obamacare’s framework.
The Affordable Care Act gave the federal government the power to write and implement many of the law’s regulations through the federal rule-making process—like the exemptions from the individual mandate that are available to consumers who encounter hardships and the mandate that requires insurance plans to cover contraception and abortifacients.
And already, President Donald Trump is using that authority to make changes to the law.
“You live by the administrative state, you die by the administrative state,” Ed Haislmaier, a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation who worked on health policy for Trump’s transition team, told The Daily Signal.
Price told senators during his confirmation process in January that he was of the mind health insurers could not wait until 2018 for relief, their losses being too great. Also, many have withdrawn completely from Obamacare marketplaces set up in about a dozen states, leaving Obamacare participants few choices and sky-high rates and deductibles.
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…[A]s the new health and human services secretary, Price can begin providing them with that relief by tightening the monitoring of consumers purchasing coverage on Obamacare’s exchanges—changes insurers asked the Obama administration to make long before Trump took office.
That includes making changes to special enrollment periods, or the time outside the standard enrollment window a person can purchase health insurance, and verifying the eligibility of consumers purchasing coverage during open enrollment and special enrollment periods.
The Obama administration created several special enrollment periods, which a consumer can qualify for if they lose their health insurance, get married, or move to a new state.
But insurance companies warned last year that Americans were taking advantage of the special enrollment periods and purchasing coverage only when it was needed.
That led to an increase in costs for plans and higher costs for consumers, insurers said.
“The Trump administration you would expect to go in and say, ‘We’re going to prioritize minimizing costs and disruption, and we’re not going to let people enroll at the drop of a hat,’” Haislmaier said.
Price can also scrap federal rules at the state level:
- Eliminate oversight over proposed rate increases and network adequacy
- He can take aim at one of Obamacare’s most controversial provisions: the contraception mandate, which requires plans to cover contraceptives and abortifacients without cost-sharing
- He could also revise the list of services insurers are required to cover—called the essential health benefits requirement—to amend or exclude preventive health
On inauguration day, Trump signed an executive order to “ease the burden of Obamacare as we transition to repeal and replace.” Though it did not contain many specifics, it did give the federal government authority to begin addressing many of the thousands of job- and profit-robbing regulations tied to the law.
Meantime, it continues to be very unpopular with most Americans; they want it repealed and replaced.