HHS’ Tom Price touts Trump health plan as ‘PatientCare’

Tom Price speaking
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price addressed reporters Tuesday at a White House daily briefing to explain the Republican proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price acknowledged that the GOP’s replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act is a “work in progress” during a daily White House briefing Tuesday, but also said it will lead to patient-centered healthcare, where patients, families and doctors can make decisions about their treatment plans.

Despite criticism from some conservative lawmakers that the plan doesn’t eliminate key pieces of the healthcare reform law for several years, Price said the proposal delivers on the promise President Donald Trump made during his campaign to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s signature legislation with a patient-centered alternative.

The bill keeps two popular provisions from the ACA: It ensures coverage to those with preexisting conditions and allows young adults to stay on their parent’s plan until the age of 26. But it puts an end to Medicaid expansion and instead converts Medicaid to a “per capita cap,” so states would receive a lump sum for each enrollee. The bill also maintains the Cadillac tax but delays it until 2025.

The proposal also eliminates the individual and employer mandates, offers age-based tax credits to help individuals afford coverage, expands the use of health savings accounts, and ends almost all of the taxes levied by the ACA.

Asked whether he supports everything in the bill, Price said it is a work in progress but it is a step in the right direction as it ensures that healthcare decisions are made by patients and their clinicians, not the government. As to whether the plan should be called “TrumpCare,” Price said he prefers the term “PatientCare.”

The proposal targets those individuals who don’t receive employer-based coverage. It is meant to give options to those in individual and small group markets, which Price described as the “mom and pop” grocery stores and small businesses that have difficulty paying for care and coverage.

“Sadly the costs are going up in the individual and small markets and the access is going down. And it’s only going worse. Premiums increased 25% over last year on average. Deductibles are going up,” Price said, noting that a family that earns $40,000 often has a high deductible of as much as $12,000 a year. “You may have an insurance card, but you don’t get care because you can’t afford the deductible.”

Price said that something has to be done as a third of the counties in the U.S. only have one insurer offering coverage on an exchange. One insurer, he said, is not a choice. Last year, 232 insurers offered coverage on exchanges. This year there are 167, a drop of nearly 30%, he noted. “All of this means patients are not getting the care they need,” he said.

The Republican proposal, according to Price, is in keeping with Trump’s principles that he promised during this campaign: a healthcare system that offers affordability, accessibility, high quality, incentives for innovation, transparency and accountability.

However, he said the proposal will likely undergo several changes before it becomes law.