The man President-elect Donald Trump hopes will be his top health official echoed Republicans on the Hill who say they want an overhaul of the Affordable Care Act to focus on expanding access to health insurance to all Americans.
Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) stressed “access to health care” in a Wednesday hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. That’s a distinction that his colleagues on the Hill have made in recent days from Trump, who has promised coverage for all, not just access.
“My role in Congress was to always make certain that individuals had the opportunity to gain access to the kind of coverage that they desired, and that they had the financial feasibility to do so,” Price said.
It’s not exactly surprising that Price sounded like his Capitol Hill colleagues during the hearing. The six-term congressman has served as the chair of the conservative Republican Study Committee and chair of the House Budget Committee. He introduced his own bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and worked closely with House Speaker Paul Ryan and others to craft the health platform of the House GOP “Better Way” agenda, which is expected to serve as a starting point for legislation in the House.
Throughout the nearly four-hour hearing, Price offered few new details on what’s coming. He mentioned high-risk pools as a possible way to provide access to insurance, and said Republicans wouldn’t “pull the rug out” from anyone.
He told Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) that coverage has improved since the ACA was passed and implemented, but suggested that many people can’t use that coverage because they can’t access the care they want — a common refrain from Hill Republicans.
Price also told Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) he had “no reason to believe” Trump had moved away from his campaign statement not to make changes to Social Security and Medicare, though he hasn’t had extensive conversations with him on that topic.
Separately, he said a bill replacing the ACA wouldn’t be the proper place to pass Medicare reforms.
Price did not specifically answer a question from HELP ranking member Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on whether the 18 Food and Drug Administration-approved methods of contraception would continue to be covered under a GOP replacement plan.
“What I will commit to and assure is that women and all Americans need to know that we believe strongly that every single American ought to have access to the kind of coverage and care that they desire and want, and that’s our commitment,” Price said.