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Political Editors / Mar. 31, 2017

HHS Sec Price: ‘I Can Still Work on ObamaCare Repeal’

He has an awful lot of leeway with regulation for Phase 2 of repeal.

All hope isn’t lost for repealing ObamaCare, and in some ways, Congress won’t even be necessary. The Washington Post relays the relevant details: “In his carefully calibrated testimony before House appropriators, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price made one thing clear Wednesday: The administration is still intent on dismantling parts of the Affordable Care Act even if Republicans lack the votes to rewrite it. Time and time again, Price invoked the pledge he has made repeatedly to lawmakers since President Trump selected him for his post. ‘What we’re committed to is making sure the American people have access to affordable coverage,’ he [said].”

Let’s break this down. Democrats left gaping holes in the so-called Affordable Care Act so big Price could drive a Mack truck through them. They did this by leaving a ton of the law’s implementation to the agency in charge of the particulars. As Price noted, “Fourteen hundred and forty-two times the ACA said ‘the secretary shall’ or ‘the secretary may.' ” That clearly gives Price great discretion in determining how ObamaCare actually works in practice. His guidelines will be almost entirely what is politically doable for the Trump administration.

One key thing Price may be working on is deciding what constitutes “essential benefits” in coverage. ObamaCare mandates include what must be covered by insurance, and Price can scale some of that back. Not forcing older couples to buy insurance with maternity coverage, for example, would help slow down the drastic increase in premium prices. The Trump administration refers to the regulatory changes as “Phase 2” of ObamaCare repeal. Let’s hope things move forward even while Congress is stuck in neutral.

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