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Price on intro of ObamaCare replacement bill: Phase 1

March 11, 2017

President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services used the daily White House press briefing to answer some questions about the bill introduced today in the House of Representatives that the administration is calling “phase one” of its healthcare reform plan.

“There are three phases of this plan,” Dr. Price said. “One is the bill that was introduced last evening in the House of Representatives… Second are all the regulatory modifications and changes that can be put into place. As you all well know, the previous administration used regulations to a fare-thee-well. In fact, there were 192 specific rules that were put out as they relate to Obamacare, over 5,000 letters of guidance and the like.”

“And we are going to go through every single one of those and make certain that they — if they help patients, then we need to continue them. If they harm patients or — or increase costs, then obviously they need to be addressed,” he said about phase two.

“And then there’s other legislation that will need to be addressed that can’t be done through the reconciliation process,” he said moving on to phase three. “So, the goal of all of this is patient-centered health care, where patients and families and doctors are making medical decisions and not the federal government.”

Transcript of Price’s opening statement. Next he answers questions.

Good afternoon. First, let me just share with you what an honor it is to serve as the secretary of health and human services. I’m the third physician out of 23 individuals who have had the privilege of serving as the secretary of health and human services.

And the mission at our department is to improve the health and safety and wellbeing of the American people, and we take that mission very, very seriously.

And for many Americans right now, their ability to gain health care or health coverage is a real challenge. For most Americans, they receive their health coverage through their employer. It’s about 175 million folks. Those individuals will see no significant change other than there won’t be a penalty for not purchasing coverage.

For the folks in the Medicare system, there will be no changes at all in the current — in the current law. But we’re talking about those people in the individual and small group market, the moms and pops, the folks who run the corner grocery store or the corner cleaners. Those individuals out there are having huge challenges gaining care and gaining coverage. And then Medicaid is a program that by and large has decreased the ability for folks to gain access to care, and we want to make certain that we address that.

This is about patients. This is not about money. This is not about something else. This is about patients. And sadly, the costs are going up for those folks in the individual and small group market. The access is doing down. And it’s only getting worse.

You know the stories. Premiums increased 25 percent over the last year on average. Arizona had an increase of 116 percent. Deductibles are going up for many, many folks. If you’re a mom or a dad out there, and you make $40,000, $50,000, $60,000, your deductible is this market, in that individual and small group market, oftentimes is $8,000, $10,000, $12,000 a year.

What that means is that you’ve got an insurance card, but you don’t get care because you can’t afford the deductible. And we know that this is happening by talking to the folks who are out there trying to provide the care.PRICE: A third of the counties in the United States — one-third of the counties in the United States have only one insurer offering coverage on the exchange. Five states only have one insurer offering coverage on the exchange.

One insurer is not a choice, so we need to make certain that we correct that.

In Tennessee this morning it was announced that there are a number of counties that have no insurer offering coverage on the exchange.

Insurers are leaving the market on the exchange. Last year there were 232 insurers that were providing coverage — that were offering coverage on the exchange. Now there are 167. That’s a loss of about 30 percent in one year alone.

And all of this means that patients are not getting the care that they need.

Now, the principles that we have as our — as our guiding star are affordability: We want a system that’s affordable for everybody; accessibility: We need a system that’s accessible for everybody; a system that’s of the highest quality; a system that incentivizes innovation in the health care system; and a system that empowers patients through both transparency and accountability.

The president spoke last week, last Tuesday, to a joint session of Congress and he laid out his — his principles.

First, he wanted to make certain that those with preexisting illness and injury were not priced out of the market. Nobody ought to lose their coverage because they get a bad diagnosis.

In terms of affordability, health savings accounts — growing choices for patients is incredibly important. Tax credits that allow individuals to be able to purchase the kind of coverage that they want, not that the government forces them to buy.

We’ve always talked about, in terms of what kinds of reforms need to be put in place, that we need to equalize the tax treatment for the purchase of coverage.

Those, again, in the employer-sponsored market, they get a tax benefit for buying health coverage. Those folks that are out there in the individual and small group market, no tax benefit. And that’s what this plan would do.

State flexibility. It’s incredibly important that we allow the states to be the ones that are defining what health coverage is — have the flexibility, especially in the Medicaid program, to be able to respond to their vulnerable population.

Lawsuit abuse the president mentioned, and it’s incredibly important. The practice of defensive medicine wastes billions and billions of dollars every single year, and we need to make certain that we’re addressing that as well.

President also talked about a glide path, an appropriate transition to this new — new phase for health care for our country, and that’s important as well so that nobody falls through the cracks.

Buying across state lines — buying insurance across state lines, the president talked about this on the campaign over and over. American people understand the common-sense nature of purchasing across state lines and it increases competition. And we need to make certain that that happens.

And then addressing the incredible increase in drug prices.

There are three phases of this plan.

One is the bill that was introduced last evening in the House of Representatives. That’s the start of all of this.

Second are all the regulatory modifications and changes that can be put into place. As you all well know, the previous administration used regulations to a fare-thee-well. In fact, there were 192 specific rules that were put out as they relate to Obamacare, over 5,000 letters of guidance and the like.

And we are going to go through every single one of those and make certain that they — if they help patients, then we need to continue them. If they harm patients or — or increase costs, then obviously they need to be addressed.

And then there’s other legislation that will need to be addressed that can’t be done through the reconciliation process.

So, the goal of all of this is patient-centered health care, where patients and families and doctors are making medical decisions and not the federal government.

We look — we commend the House for the introduction of the bill yesterday and we look forward to working with all individuals in this process.

Price is asked about conservative groups like the Club for Growth and Heritage Action who are already out with opposition to the bill:

PRICE: Well, I think that this is the beginning of the process and — and we look forward to working with them and others to make certain that, again, we come up with that process that aligns with the principles that we’ve defined, that they actually adhere to or agree with as well. And that is that we need a system that’s affordable for folks, a system that’s accessible for individuals, that’s of the highest quality, that incentivizes innovation, and that empowers patients. And so, we look forward to working with them through this process.

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