Tom Price pulls a 180 on individual mandate, says GOP's repeal will increase premiums

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a statement from Tom Price.

President Donald Trump's former Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary, and historically stanch Affordable Care Act critic, now says the repeal of the individual mandate will raise the cost of health insurance for Americans.

But that's not what he was saying last year. 

Tom Price, a former congressman and Trump's short-lived HHS secretary, said Tuesday that people on the ACA exchanges will see higher premiums due to a repeal of the individual mandate, a GOP-backed action that was incorporated into tax legislation passed in December. 

"There are many, and I am one of them, who believes that [repeal] actually will harm the pool in the exchange market because you'll likely have individuals who are younger and healthier not participating in that market," Price said at the World Health Care Conference in Washington, as reported by numerous news outlets. "Consequently, that drives up the cost for other folks in that market."

Price's comments are a distinct reversal from his position less than a year ago. Then-Secretary Price said in an interview with ABC that the mandate is "one of those things that actually is driving up the costs for the American people in terms of coverage."

Price, a frequent critic of the ACA during his tenure, backed the GOP's American Health Care Act, known as a "skinny repeal" that would have eliminated the individual mandate. He often advocated for more choice and argued that more than 20 million people decided against purchasing exchange plans despite the penalty for not having insurance.

RELATED: Tom Price resigns as HHS secretary; President Trump taps Don J. Wright as acting replacement

Democratic leaders in the House and Senate quickly pounced on Price's comments, shifting the blame for increasing premiums to the Trump administration. 

Price's new position is similar to those of Democrats, hospitals, insurers and even the Congressional Budget Office, who projected that 13 million fewer people will have health coverage by 2027 as a result of the repeal.

The nonpartisan agency also said that exchange premiums will increase by about 10% each year because of the amount of people leaving the marketplace as prices increase. 


Price walked back his comments Wednesday, and alleging his comments were taken out of context.

"Repealing the individual mandate was exactly the right thing to do," he said in statement, as reported by POLITICO. "Forcing Americans to buy something they don’t want undermines individual liberty as well as free markets."