Tom Price, an orthopedic surgeon and former HHS Secretary under President Trump, on Wednesday walked back comments he made earlier this week that seemingly criticized Republican's elimination of the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) individual mandate penalty, saying those comments were taken out of context.
Price, who resigned as HHS secretary in September 2017 amid federal investigations and growing criticism over his use of private planes for official business, in the past has been critical of the ACA and has advocated for repealing the law's individual mandate. For instance, Price in July 2017 during an appearance on ABC's "This Week" said, "The individual mandate is one of those things that actually is driving up the costs for the American people in terms of coverage."
Last year, after GOP efforts to repeal and replace the ACA failed, Congress passed and Trump signed a tax reform law that effectively eliminates the individual mandate penalty in 2019 by setting the penalty to $0.
Price says eliminating individual mandate penalty 'will harm' exchanges
During a speech Tuesday at the World Health Care Congress, Price said he and many others believe that eliminating the individual mandate penalty will "harm the (risk) pool in the exchange market," because "you'll likely have individuals [who] are younger and healthier not participat[e] in that market, and consequently that drives up the costs for other [people] within that market."
Price said lawmakers should not have eliminated the individual mandate penalty since they did not also address other issues with the law by reforming or repealing the ACA.
Some observers said Price's comments showed that Republicans were acting to undermine the ACA when they eliminated the individual mandate penalty. For instance, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) in a statement said, "I'm glad to see … Price admit the truth, which is that families' premiums are going up because … Trump and Republicans in Congress have spiked prices with their relentless, partisan health care sabotage."
Price says comments were taken out of context
But on Wednesday, Price said the comments he made Tuesday were taken out of context, and he reiterated his support for eliminating the individual mandate.
Price on Wednesday said, "Repealing the individual mandate was exactly the right thing to do," adding, "Forcing Americans to buy something they don't want undermines individual liberty as well as free markets."
Price said his remarks at the conference were intended to explain "how repealing the mandate would affect certain populations in the absence of additional reforms, like the expansion of association health plans and other measures that use market forces to drive down costs." He continued, "The only fair and effective way to bring down health care costs is to allow markets to create more choices for consumers and small businesses" (Weixel, The Hill, 5/2; Siddons, CQ News, 5/2 [subscription required]).
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