Two national organizations promoting free markets and limited government have written a letter urging U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price to launch the second phase of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s three-phase strategy to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The organizations are calling on Price to begin without waiting for Congress to complete Phase I.
Freedom Partners and Americans for Prosperity (AFP) asked Price to rescind Obamacare provisions immediately in their June 2 letter, instead of waiting for Congress to pass the American Health Care Act as a budget reconciliation bill, the first phase of Ryan’s Obamacare repeal strategy.
Phase II involves administrative actions “that will create a healthier insurance market and alleviate the burden the current healthcare law imposed on Americans,” the HHS website states. Phase III entails passing several smaller Republican proposals using the regular legislative process.
‘Obamacare Is Exploding’
Price should use his power to alleviate the burden of rising health insurance premiums exacerbated by Obamacare, the letter states.
“Obamacare’s harmful regulations are putting access to affordable health care out of reach for millions of people,” the groups wrote. “As a recent report from your department showed, average individual market premiums have doubled in the last four years during which these regulations have taken effect. These skyrocketing costs represent a massive burden on ordinary Americans. President Trump is right; Obamacare is ‘exploding.'”
The letter recommends immediate actions, such as “loosening Obamacare’s choice-stifling mandates,” “offering states more flexibility,” “undoing regulations that limit short-term insurance plans to three months,” “relaxing Obamacare’s minimum actuarial value rule,” and “easing Obamacare’s medical loss ratio rule.”
Out of Order
Nathan Nascimento, vice president of policy at Freedom Partners, says Price has the authority to abrogate Obamacare mandates and regulations that have caused premiums to soar.
“All these things lead to a very significant investment that drives up premiums, making them unaffordable,” Nascimento said during a media call that included Health Care News. “We also think that the HHS secretary has a number of options at his disposal to begin providing some of that immediate relief right now. And I know we’ve already seen some existing efforts from HHS and [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] to do just that.”
The executive and legislative branches of the federal government should work simultaneously to get rid of ACA, Nascimento says.
“We actually think it can be done and should be done at the same time,” Nascimento said. “Working on these [options] is going to provide relief and repair a broken system.”
AFP President Tim Phillips says the Democrat-controlled Congress that passed ACA expanded the HHS secretary’s powers.
“The way the law was written, it was a rush job at the end,” Phillips said. “When they lost the special election, the Democrats in Massachusetts, for the late [Sen.] Ted Kennedy’s seat, ceded enormous latitude to the HHS secretary to make changes to the law. And in fact, then-Secretary [Kathleen] Sebelius took dramatic advantage of those on a consistent basis.”
Congressional failure to repeal ACA heightens the urgency for executive action, Phillips says.
“It’s not ideal,” Phillips said. “The legislation is far better, but potential delays in Congress repealing this law or rolling back significant segments of it make this Phase II effort from Secretary Price even more important, in our view.”
Kathy Hoekstra ([email protected]) is a policy advisor on regulatory issues for The Heartland Institute.
“Letter Asks HHS Secretary Tom Price to Implement Phase II of Obamacare Repeal,” Freedom Partners and Americans for Prosperity, June 2, 2017: https://heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/letter-asks-hhs-secretary-tom-price-to-implement-phase-ii-of-obamacare-repeal
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