Trump health chief wants 'consumer friendly' ObamaCare signups

Trump health chief wants 'consumer friendly' ObamaCare signups
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President Trump's acting health chief said Wednesday that the administration wants to make the ObamaCare sign-up season "as consumer friendly as possible."

Eric Hargan, the acting secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), said in a speech that Trump is committed to repealing and replacing the law, but the administration still wants this enrollment period, which began Wednesday, to go smoothly. 

"The dedicated public servants at HHS and in the states have put a great deal of work into preparing us for open enrollment season, and we are committed to making this year's enrollment as consumer friendly as possible," Hargan said in the speech at an event hosted by the Council for Affordable Health Coverage. 

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The Trump administration has come under fire from Democrats for a 90 percent cut in advertising and outreach to promote enrollment and other steps that Democrats say is "sabotage."

Hargan did not respond to a question about outreach efforts from a reporter as he got in an elevator after the speech. 

He said ObamaCare has "failed" and that the administration is "committed" to repealing and replacing it.

Until Congress acts, Hargan said, "for now the administration is doing what we can to provide relief for Americans suffering from the unworkable system."

He said he wants administrative actions to expand choices for consumers and allow them less expensive options. 

Hargan pointed to a regulation announced last week allowing states more flexibility to set standards for what an insurance plan must cover.

Trump has taken aim at high drug prices, but Hargan outlined a more Republican-friendly approach to the issue, pointing to increased competition as the way to solve it. He did not mention broader approaches like Medicare negotiating drug prices, which Trump has previously supported.

"Doing what we can to spur competition in drug markets is going to be a top priority for HHS because it's the right way, or really in our view, the only way to make sure pharmaceuticals are part of affordable care for patients while at the same time incentivizing new treatments that can make incredible advancements for our health," Hargan said.

"We know rising costs in this area are a pressing issue," he said.