Congressional Republicans and Donald Trump have thus far failed to get on the same page about what to do with the Affordable Care Act once he takes office this week. They are in agreement it should be repealed, but at odds over how and when to pull the trigger — which could leave an estimated 32 million people without coverage as a result. During the campaign and subsequent transition, Trump has put forth substance-free platitudes, assuring Americans that nobody will lose their health insurance.
“We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” he told The Washington Post on Sunday, though he continues to refuse to offer any details how other than that Americans “can expect to have great health care.”
During his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA)—Trump’s pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services, the federal agency tasked with overseeing implementation of the Affordable Care Act—similarly insisted that Republicans and the Trump administration were committed to insuring as many Americans as possible. And like his future boss, he wants Americans to just take him at his word.
“Just days ago, the president-elect said his plan would provide insurance for everybody,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). “Do you share those goals?”
“I think it’s absolutely imperative that we have a system in place that has patients at the center, and allows for every single American to have the opportunity to gain access to the kind of coverage they want,” Price said.
Republicans have long opposed federal programs to provide health insurance—as well as education, housing and other basic necessities—by opting to provide unspecified “opportunities” rather than guaranteed access. The problem, of course, is that the “opportunities” Republicans offer are often not attainable for millions of Americans.
For example, a repeal of Obamacare would strip away protections for those with pre-existing conditions. Rep. Price, who introduced his own replacement health care plan in Congress last year, said on Wednesday that his proposal would give anyone with a preexisting condition the opportunity to purchase coverage as part of a high-risk pool, neglecting to mention that the costs of insurance plans within those pools would be prohibitively high.
“We would put in place high-risk polls and individual heath pools that would allow every single person in the individual, small, and group market who are the ones challenged with preexisting illness to be able to gain access to the coverage they want,” said Price. There was no mention of any protections for those who can’t afford the cost.
“I am very concerned that your vision for our health care system is very different than one that I think millions of Americans are counting on,” said Sen. Murray.
Democratic lawmakers repeatedly expressed their concern about the lack of details surrounding Republicans’ health care alternative, a proposal they have supposedly been shaping since Democrats passed the ACA in 2010. “I hope you can understand our frustration around trying to divine the nature of this replacement plan,” said Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy.