President-elect Trump‘s choice of Tom Price to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sends a strong signal that the Trump Administration will be allied with Speaker Paul Ryan in repealing the Affordable Care Act. Price also is a fierce opponent of Medicare. He supports gutting both Medicare and Medicaid and rationing health care based on people’s ability to pay for it.
As a Congressman and Chair of the House Budget Committee, Price has made his views on health care known. He authored a bill that turns over much control over health insurance to the industry, with the Orwellian name, Empowering Patients First Act. He supports health insurance regulations that allow insurers to charge older people significantly more than they may today and to sell policies that offer less than adequate coverage. And, he is opposed to subsidies to help people with low incomes afford their health care.
If Price has his druthers, Congress would privatize Medicare and Medicaid, turning them over entirely to private insurance companies. Like Ryan, he wants to eliminate their guaranteed benefits and leave older adults, people with disabilities and people with low-incomes at the mercy of insurers, with inadequate coverage, in the health care marketplace.
Just recently, Price’s Budget Committee released a plan that would have Congress automatically cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security substantially to pay for tax cuts mainly for the wealthiest Americans, which president-elect Trump and Congressional Republicans support. The Center for American Progress reports that under his plan, over ten years, Social Security would be cut $1.7 trillion, Medicare would be cut $1.1 trillion, and Medicaid would be cut by nearly $700,000 billion.
And, even without Congressional action affecting our health care system, as head of HHS, Price will have tremendous power to drive changes in Medicare, Medicaid and health insurance in America. As head of HHS, Price will determine how laws are interpreted. He can choose for HHS to limit its oversight of health insurers or to stop spending money on enforcement or to revise provider payment policies.
There’s no candy-coating what will happen if Ryan and Price get their way in Congress. Here’s what we should expect:
- The ACA will be repealed, Medicare will no longer guarantee basic health care coverage, and Medicaid will likely be turned over to the states in the form of federal block grants.
- Hospitals and doctors will ratchet up their charges.
- Drug companies will increase drug prices.
- Insurance companies will compete for business by keeping their premiums as low as possible for the young and healthy and denying coverage or charging high deductibles and out-of-pocket costs when people need care; people with costly conditions will be forced to pay exorbitant premiums as well as high deductibles and copays for coverage or forego care.
- Insurers will restrict their coverage as much as possible and give people only a limited choice of doctors and hospitals. There may not be a guaranteed package of Medicare benefits.
- Government will provide little oversight of the health care industry and/or will not hold insurers accountable for failing to deliver good quality care.
The American Medical Association, AMA, and American Hospital Association, AHA, are both supporting Tom Price. They likely see deregulation of the health care industry as a way for doctors and hospitals to charge higher rates and operate with less accountability. However, deregulation of the health insurance industry will ultimately bite doctors and hospitals in the back.
If Price’s views prevail and Congress kills Medicare and Medicaid, insurers are more than likely to use their leverage to form narrow networks, keeping their enrollees from using costly specialists and specialty hospitals. Alternatively, insurers will raise out-of-pocket costs for specialty care so high that patients won’t be able to afford them, and doctors and hospitals will be left holding the bag.
If you oppose deregulation of our health insurance system and an end to Medicare’s guaranteed benefits, please sign this petition and visit your Senators to make your views known.
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