Health Care

Health chief: GOP plan is really ‘repeal and collapse’


The nation’s top health official is giving her starkest post-election outlook yet about the fate of ObamaCare, warning that the GOP’s plan will immediately unravel the insurance marketplace.

“The idea of ‘repeal and replace’ is really, ‘repeal and collapse,’” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in an interview with “PBS Newshour” this week.

Burwell, who has largely stayed out of the spotlight since the election, is now emerging as a vocal critic of the GOP’s push to sign a repeal bill within Donald Trump’s first 100 days as president.

Republican leaders say the repeal likely wouldn’t go into effect for at least a year. But Burwell said “delayed implementation” would wreck the marketplaces, regardless.

That could affect as many as 30 million people, she said, citing a recent study by the Urban Institute that found that repealing the Affordable Care Act could cause even more people to be uninsured than before the law passed.

Even if the GOP puts parts of the law on life support until then, Burwell said the marketplaces would be immediately disrupted by insurance companies that drastically rethink their strategies.

“Insurance companies, because of the uncertainty, will make decisions not to go into the marketplace. They will make decisions to raise their prices,” Burwell told PBS Newshour.

The health secretary doubled down on her warning during a separate interview on Tuesday with APM Marketplace.

Burwell said the uncertainty of the GOP’s plans would lead to an “unraveling” of the marketplaces. When asked about the shaky state of some of those marketplaces even before the election, Burwell argued that most people still had access to care.

“There are places where it is harder,” she told Marketplace, pointing to states like Arizona. “But for the vast majority of the country, the marketplace is working.”

Burwell warned that the GOP could not successfully keep popular pieces of the law, such as protections for people with preexisting conditions, while dismantling the mandates.

“It’s like a game of Jenga. When you pull one out, the thing will topple,” she said in the PBS interview.

While Trump has said little about how he would replace ObamaCare, he said in recent weeks that he backed certain provisions, like allowing young people to remain on their parents’ plans until age 26.

“You can’t just pick and choose the things you like. Everything has to work together in order to pay, and have those with preexisting conditions be in,” Burwell said.  

Tags Donald Trump

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