On Wednesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee will consider President-elect Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services: Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga. The hearing will no doubt be another showdown in the war over Obamacare’s fate.
Price, an orthopedic doctor in Atlanta before he became a politician, is more than equipped to lead HHS and implement the Republican plan to replace Obamacare. He’s had a replacement plan of his own ready for two years. Soon, significant elements of his “Empowering Patients First Act” are likely to become law.
His nomination, if approved by the Senate HELP Committee, then goes to the Senate Finance Committee for approval. These hearings offer the perfect opportunity to defend his ideas before the nation.
Paramount among them is a system of age-based refundable tax credits designed to subsidize the purchase of individual coverage. These tax credits are a vast improvement over Obamacare’s complicated scheme of income-based premium subsidies. They also ought to be something that Democrats can support.
Price’s tax credits would start at $1,200 for those between 18 to 35 years of age, and increase to $2,100 for those ages 35 to 50 and $3,000 for those 50 and over and $900 per child. This money would go directly to consumers shopping for coverage on the individual market. Obamacare’s insurance subsidies, on the other hand, have been reserved for only those who shop on the state and federal exchanges. Individuals don’t control their subsidies, they go straight to insurance companies. Price will also have a chance to explain how Republicans plan to protect those with pre-existing conditions.
Most in the GOP support rules that would prohibit insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions as long as they maintain continuous coverage from year to year. This would create a strong incentive for healthy people to stay insured.
For those who simply cannot find affordable coverage in the conventional market, Price has called for billions in new federal funding for state-based high-risk pools. These programs would protect the sickest patients without raising premiums for everyone else in the conventional market.
Few Republicans have devoted as much thought to what will eventually replace Obamacare as Price. That’s why he’s a perfect choice to lead HHS.