On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a contentious confirmation hearing for President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Rep. Tom Price, MD. The Committee focused on Rep. Price’s purchases of medical stocks against Democratic charges of conflicts of interest, and pressed for more details on the incoming Administration’s plan to replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (known as the ACA).
The U.S. Senate Finance Committee will hold another hearing on January 24th. The Finance Committee has the responsibility of voting to send Dr. Price’s nomination to the Senate floor for a vote.
During the HELP Committee hearing, Dr. Price agreed with the importance of keeping health insurance markets stable as the incoming Administration and Congress makes changes to the ACA. According to insurance companies, many are trying to prepare their 2018 offerings for government reviews despite uncertainty about how the Trump Administration and Congress will change the law. The Trump Administration stated last week that they will release their plans once Dr. Price is confirmed as HHS Secretary.
ACG is actively involved in this process, and will update ACG members as soon as more details are released. What are some changes that may occur?
As Congressman, Dr. Price drafted a bill to replace the ACA. The provisions in the bill largely mirror Speaker Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way” white paper released in July 2016, as the two are close allies. This includes: increasing the use of health savings accounts and high deductible plans, providing advanceable tax credits to help individuals purchase private health insurance (first of each month), allowing individuals to purchase insurance across state lines, lowering insurance coverage requirements, giving leeway to states to determine coverage requirements, and reforming medical malpractice insurance by capping non-economic damages. There are items in this white paper that support some ACA-provision as well, albeit with modifications. These include allowing individuals aged 26 or younger to stay on a parent’s health care plan, as well as protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions.
Whitfield L. Knapple, MD, FACG
Chair, ACG National Affairs Committee