BOSTON, MA – Statement of Robert Restuccia, executive director of Community Catalyst, on the Senate Finance Committee hearing tomorrow on the nomination of Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) to serve as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.
“Last week, Rep. Price said very little during his confirmation hearing before the Senate HELP committee to alleviate our serious concerns about his nomination to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services. He reiterated his support for repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without an explanation of how he would protect the health and financial security of the 22 million people who have gained coverage under the law. He also deflected questions about whether he would cut Medicaid and Medicare.
“In light of Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway’s comments over the weekend that President Trump’s replacement for the ACA will include Medicaid block grants, Rep. Price’s refusal to answer questions about possible cuts to Medicaid is particularly worrisome. Block granting Medicaid will not reduce underlying costs – it would just force states to take on a bigger share. It is just a way for Congress to shift the costs from the federal government to states and middle-class working families.
“By draining federal Medicaid funds from states, block grants would force states to make massive cuts in Medicaid, jeopardizing care for millions of seniors, people with disabilities, children, and low-income families. And by starving states of funds, block grants would constrain the kinds of innovations we can invest in to improve care and lower costs. For example, states will non be able to provide the upfront investments and incentives needed to help providers transform their practices to provide better care coordination. Instead, states would be forced to use blunt tools to generate immediate savings – such as slashing eligibility, benefits and provider rates – rather than investing in a more efficient and effective program.
“The Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicare are woven into the fabric of our health care system, and nearly all Americans will utilize at least one of these programs to access care for themselves or their families at some point in their lives. Therefore, there are critical questions Rep. Price must address prior to a confirmation vote. Rep. Price:
- Thirty million people have gained coverage through the ACA slashing the uninsurance rate in half. How would you ensure those covered through the ACA would be able to maintain and afford their coverage?
- Since passage of the ACA, the uninsurance rate for children has been cut in half. What steps would you take to maintain and increase coverage gains for children?
- Under the ACA, 21 states have expanded Medicaid, allowing 10 million more people – most in working families – to gain access to comprehensive, affordable care. In addition, Medicaid expansion has significantly lower uncompensated care costs borne by states, counties and hospitals and provided much-needed relief to state budgets. Would you support the continuation of Medicaid expansion program for states that have expanded and those that are still considering expansion?
- Further, you have proposed capping federal Medicaid funding through block grants and per capita caps, which would dramatically restrict Medicaid funds flowing to states. President Trump’s advisor Kellyanne Conway has made similar claims, saying that President Trump’s replacement for the ACA will include block grants. Can you guarantee that you will not shift costs from the federal government onto states or on to the low-income families, people with disabilities, and seniors who are covered by Medicaid?
- The ACA has put in place important consumer protections. How would you continue to ensure consumers are protected from insurance company discrimination, specifically: women; individuals with pre-existing conditions; individuals with chronic health conditions; individuals with substance use disorders; individuals seeking mental health treatment; and LGBT individuals?
- Tens of millions of older adults rely on the ACA, Medicaid, and Medicare for their health and financial security, yet you support raising premiums for older enrollees and practices such as balanced billing that allows doctors to go after seniors for payment beyond what Medicare already pays these doctors. What steps will you take to ensure older Americans will not see skyrocketing out of pocket costs under the Trump administration?
“We hope Rep. Price will address these questions – and many others – related to his vision for our health care system at tomorrow’s hearing. We have made huge strides over the past eight years that have made it possible for people to get affordable access to care, and be healthier as a result. We can’t afford to go backwards.”
About Community Catalyst
Community Catalyst is a national, non-profit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1998 with the belief that affordable quality health care should be accessible to everyone. We work in partnership with national, state and local organizations, policymakers, and philanthropic foundations to ensure consumer interests are represented wherever important decisions about health and the health system are made: in communities, courtrooms, statehouses and on Capitol Hill. For more information, visit www.communitycatalyst.org. Read our blog at http://blog.communitycatalyst.org. Follow us on Twitter @healthpolicyhub.