Webb: Exclusive: HHS secretary on ObamaCare

Webb: Exclusive: HHS secretary on ObamaCare
© Greg Nash

At 123 pages long, much less than the thousands of pages and growing since the passage of the not-so Affordable Care Act, the House GOP plan is finally available. In an interview I spoke with Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price. 


Webb: Secretary Price, good to have you with me. Rep. Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyHouse passes tariff-relief bill GOP may increase IRS’s budget Overnight Finance: Congress barrels toward another shutdown crisis | Canada worries Trump will withdraw from NAFTA | Blue-state Republicans push tax law changes | Chamber CEO calls out Bannon, Warren MORE (R-Texas) said it is -“ObamaCare gone,” not -“ObamaCare lite.” And you as the secretary of HHS will obviously play a big role in the repeal and replace of -ObamaCare. This matters to the American people. Is ObamaCare gone? 

Price: It is, and thanks, Dave, so much. Wonderful to be with you, and remember this is all about patients and all about their ability to get access to affordable coverage that’s the highest quality and that empowers them and puts them in the driver’s seat. And the reason that it’s that it’s -“ObamaCare gone” is because it’s not just this piece of legislation. The piece of legislation moving through Congress is incredibly important. It’s a first step in the process, but there are two other activities or phases that are going on that are important for folks to appreciate. The second one is there are all the kinds of things that we’re able to do here at the Department of Health and Human Services.


Webb: In -ObamaCare — the Affordable Care Act, more commonly called -ObamaCare — the role of the secretary was given great and broad discretion in this process. ... Are there steps you have already taken or will take soon as the secretary that will help those that are on -ObamaCare but not being served properly by it?

Price: Yes, absolutely. What we’ve done initially is to put out a proposed rule that would modify how folks are able to sign up for coverage so that they get a greater flexibility in signing up for coverage, greater choices in signing up for coverage. And as I mentioned, we’re going to go through — we are in the process of going through every single one of those rules and regulations and guidances that were put out for individuals and folks across this land — businesses as well as insurance companies — to make certain that they are actually responding to the needs of the American people, not getting in the way of affordable, accessible, quality coverage that incentivizes innovation.


Webb: Secretary Price, some states under the Affordable Care Act did a Medicaid expansion, some did not. What are the roles of the states in the repeal and replacement of -ObamaCare? 

Price: So, this is absolutely vital, and the president has had this as one of his missions from the very, very beginning, and that is to provide the states the kind of flexibility that they need not only to identify the kind of program that’s best to care for their Medicaid population and the vulnerable population in their states but also return the states to having the authority to regulate health insurance. The last thing that we need is a federal government that is dictating to individuals all across this land what constitutes health coverage and what kind of health coverage people need to buy or are forced to buy. 


Webb: One of the big items for many around the country is pre-existing conditions, and that is going to be a difficult issue to deal with on either side of this discussion. Ideas and thoughts on pre-existing conditions and an approach to covering those with that, with any of those ailments?

Price: You know, we firmly believe the president believes that nobody ought to be priced out of the market if they get a bad diagnosis. So the system that we envision is actually much more responsive to folks, because it allows them the opportunity again to purchase coverage that best suits their needs. The way that this piece of legislation deals with that is to provide for — if you have continuous coverage, if you continue the coverage that you add or you move from one insurance company to another, to get something that’s more responsive for you, that any pre-existing illness or injury needs to be covered.


There is much more to this interview and much more to the Republican plan that will be debated and developed in the coming days, weeks and months. If the Trump administration and GOP are to be successful in peeling back the Affordable Care Act, which affects 18 percent of our gross domestic product, they must continue to act with a process-oriented approach during the repeal and legislative replacement. 

Webb is host of “The David Webb Show” on SiriusXM Patriot 125, a Fox News contributor and has appeared frequently on television as a commentator. Webb co-founded TeaParty365 in New York City. His column appears twice a month in The Hill.

The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.