Price is Right for HHS Secretary

 

The nomination of Congressman Tom Price of Georgia by President-elect Trump to be the next Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is a great choice.

Price is an orthopedic surgeon with over twenty years experience providing healthcare. He is also an experienced legislator serving in the House of Representatives since 2005. That gives Price the medical and legislative experience to be the perfect choice to fix our broken healthcare system.

Full disclosure – Price has endorsed both of my books on ObamaCare so I regard him as a great judge of healthcare expertise and character. But he has plenty of his own credentials, including his own healthcare reform legislation that was originally proposed in 2009 and has been modified twice in 2013 and 2015. It is known as the Empowering Patients First Act (H.R. – 2300) and it will likely form the framework for the replacement of ObamaCare.

The Price Plan

Price’s bill seeks to achieve universal coverage through tax credits – rather than tax deductions as some plans propose. Although an earlier version used means testing, the current version is independent of income and varies only with age. His proposal calls for tax credits of:

  • $1200 – ages 18-35
  • $2100 – ages 35-50
  • $3000 – ages 50 and over
  • $900 – children under age 18

These numbers reflect the increasing cost of healthcare insurance that occurs with advancing age.

At first glance these numbers may seem low since the current ObamaCare subsidies average about $3500. These tax credits may need to be higher, however, the cost of insurance premiums should go down compared to ObamaCare once the perverse mandates are eliminated that artificially drive up the cost of those premiums.

The elimination of means testing for tax credits will greatly simplify the approval process and enrollment. It was verification of income that caused so many of the problems the Obama administration experienced in the rollout of ObamaCare in 2013. Price’s 2015 modification of his plan reflects that learning experience.

Like the Sessions – Cassidy plan I have been discussing lately (see archives) this plan provides tax credits for everyone, regardless of income. However, unlike Sessions – Cassidy, the Price tax credits are only available to those who purchase their health insurance on the individual market – not those with employer-provided plans. This portion of the plan may need modification if the goal is universal coverage.

The Price plan also sets a limit on how much employer paid insurance can be excluded from employee income – a Republican modification of the ObamaCare “Cadillac tax” that discourages expensive plans. This is unpopular with Republicans and will probably also need modification to achieve Congressional approval.

The popular feature of coverage of pre-existing conditions is handled in the Price plan by insisting all patients be covered who have had continuous coverage (by any carrier) for the last eighteen months. Those who failed to keep their coverage or never enrolled will be subject to eighteen months of non-coverage of pre-existing conditions. Some modification of this may happen but the incentive to keep continuous coverage is important to prevent “gaming of the system” as routinely occurs now under ObamaCare.

I am excited about the prospects for meaningful healthcare reform with the nomination of Dr. Price for HHS Secretary. The Price plan and the Sessions-Cassidy plan give Republicans a great framework for replacing ObamaCare with a plan that really works for the American people.

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