Azar credits Trump for ACA stability. Policy experts disagree

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar credited President Donald Trump for stabilizing the Affordable Care Act exchanges and bringing down premiums.

In remarks at an event hosted by the Nashville Health Care Council, Azar credited President Trump with taking "decisive action to stabilize insurance markets and expand choices for American consumers" that led to a 2% reduction in benchmark plan premiums for 2019.

Trump has previously called the ACA a "disaster" and warned that it is "imploding."

But Azar said immediate actions by the administration, including approving state reinsurance programs, has helped drive down premiums.

"It turns out, when you have a president who’s willing to take decisive action, who understands business, who’s willing to work with the private sector, you can find a way to help American patients, even within a failed system like the ACA," he said.

Experts have previously said exchange premiums would be lower if not for actions by the Trump administration—including repealing the individual mandatecutting off cost-sharing reductions, and reducing outreach efforts.

"The president who was supposedly trying to sabotage the Affordable Care Act has proven better at managing it than the president who wrote the law," Azar countered.

RELATED: GAO criticizes Trump administration's ACA outreach and enrollment efforts

"Premiums would be going down a lot if not for repeal of the individual mandate penalty and expansion of short-term plans," Levitt said.

Charles Gaba, an ACA analyst who runs pointed out that Azar's figure only accounts for the 39 states on the federal exchange. He said overall rates are up 28%, most of which is attributed to a lack of cost-reduction payments.

ACA insurers have repeatedly cited the repeal of the individual mandate and the introduction of short-term health plans as reasons behind premium increases for 2019. Healthcare organizations, including AHIP, have said short-term plans will pull healthy individuals off the exchanges, increasing premiums for older enrollees.