Media Fail To Explain The Impact of HHS Nominee Tom Price’s Health Care Agenda – Media Matters for America

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President-Elect Trump Taps Rep. Tom Price For Secretary Of Health And Human Services

Politico: “Rep. Tom Price Is President-Elect Donald Trump’s Choice.” Politico reported that President-elect Donald Trump chose Rep. Tom Price “to serve as the next secretary of Health and Human Services,” and noted that Price has a background as “an orthopedic surgeon and has been a longtime opponent of the Affordable Care Act.” From the November 29 article:

Rep. Tom Price is President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to serve as the next secretary of Health and Human Services, the real estate mogul’s transition team announced in an email early Tuesday morning.

“Chairman Price, a renowned physician, has earned a reputation for being a tireless problem solver and the go-to expert on healthcare policy, making him the ideal choice to serve in this capacity,” Trump said in a statement. “He is exceptionally qualified to shepherd our commitment to repeal and replace Obamacare and bring affordable and accessible healthcare to every American. I am proud to nominate him as Secretary of Health and Human Services.”

Price (R-Ga.) is an orthopedic surgeon and has been a longtime opponent of the Affordable Care Act, which the president-elect has pledged to repeal and replace. The Georgia congressman was an early supporter of Trump’s and endorsed him for president last May. [Politico, 11/29/16]

Major Newspapers Failed To Note The Impact of Price’s Proposed Health Care Policies

NY Times: Trump “Could Not Have Found Anyone More Prepared Than Representative Tom Price” To “Dismantle And Replace” The ACA. The New York Times failed to include any discussion of the tangible impact of Price’s proposed changes to the ACA, Medicare, or Medicaid in its glowing review of his selection to lead HHS. A November 28 article, claimed Trump “could not have found anyone more prepared” than Price to “dismantle and replace President Obama’s health care law.” The article called Price’s proposed legislation a “detailed, comprehensive replacement plan,” noting that it would “offer age-adjusted tax credits,” health-savings accounts, and “grants to states to subsidize insurance for ‘high-risk’ populations, but largely avoided any discussion of the effect those policies would have on the level and quality of coverage in the U.S. The article also claimed that Price has “intimate knowledge of Medicare” while neglecting to explain how previous budget proposals he has supported would fundamentally alter a health insurance system used by tens of millions of persons with disabilities and retirees:

While some Republicans have attacked the Affordable Care Act without proposing an alternative, Mr. Price has introduced bills offering a detailed, comprehensive replacement plan in every Congress since 2009, when Democrats started work on the legislation. Many of his ideas are included in the “Better Way” agenda issued several months ago by House Republicans.

[…]

The legislation Mr. Price has proposed, the Empowering Patients First Act, would repeal the Affordable Care Act and offer age-adjusted tax credits for the purchase of individual and family health insurance policies.

The bill would create incentives for people to contribute to health savings accounts; offer grants to states to subsidize insurance for “high-risk populations”; allow insurers licensed in one state to sell policies to residents of others; and authorize business and professional groups to provide coverage to members through “association health plans.”

[…]

He has introduced legislation that would make it easier for doctors to defend themselves against medical malpractice lawsuits and to enter into private contracts with Medicare beneficiaries. Under such contracts, doctors can, in effect, opt out of Medicare and charge more than the amounts normally allowed by the program’s rules.

He also supported legislation to bar federal funds for Planned Parenthood, saying some of its clinics had been involved in what he called “barbaric” abortion practices.

[…]

Mr. Price’s intimate knowledge of Medicare could serve him well. The secretary of health and human services sets Medicare payment policies for doctors, updates the physician fee schedule each year and issues rules that can have a huge influence on the practice of medicine. The government is carrying out a law that changes how doctors are paid under Medicare, and Medicare often serves as a model for private insurers. [The New York Times, 11/28/16]

Wash. Post: Price Is “A Fierce Critic Of The Affordable Care Act And A Proponent Of Overhauling The Nation’s Entitlement Programs.” The Washington Post reported on Trump’s selection of Price, describing him as a “fierce critic” of the ACA and a “proponent of overhauling the nation’s entitlement programs,” but barely described the potential effect of the implementation of his policies. The article claimed “Price already is familiar with the budget process, the federal bureaucracy, and the costs and mechanics of changing the Affordable Care” and described his proposed reforms as “major changes to Medicaid and Medicare.” The only mention of the impact of Price’s proposals focused exclusively on his Medicaid agenda, noting that “outside groups and watchdogs have warned that such proposals probably would lead to deep cuts for those who use the program.” On Medicare, the article misleadingly claimed Price’s proposed changes “would give older or disabled Americans financial help” to buy private insurance, neglecting to mention that such a change amounts to privatization of the program. From the November 29 article:

President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), a fierce critic of the Affordable Care Act and a proponent of overhauling the nation’s entitlement programs, to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.

[…]

One of the 18 members of the House GOP Doctors Caucus, Price supports major changes to Medicaid and Medicare, health insurance pillars of the Great Society programs of the 1960s. Under his vision, both programs would cease to be entitlements that require them to provide coverage to every person who qualifies. Instead, like many House Republicans, he wants to convert Medicaid into block grants to states — which would give them more latitude from federal requirements about eligibility rules and the medical services that must be covered for low-income Americans. This plan would also require “able-bodied” applicants to meet work requirements to receive health-care benefits — an idea that the Obama administration has consistently rebuffed.

Some outside groups and watchdogs have warned that such proposals probably would lead to deep cuts for those who use the program. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that at least 14 million people would lose coverage if Congress revokes the Medicaid expansion that has occurred under the ACA.

For Medicare, Price favors another idea long pushed by conservatives, switching it from a “defined benefit” to a “defined contribution.” With that, the government would give older or disabled Americans financial help for them to buy private insurance policies.

[…]

In choosing Price to fill a key Cabinet position, Trump will add to his team a staunchly conservative lawmaker close to the House speaker. Price already is familiar with the budget process, the federal bureaucracy, and the costs and mechanics of changing the Affordable Care Act as well as revamping the Medicare entitlement program. [The Washington Post, 11/29/16]

WSJ: Rep. Price “Carve[d] Out A Leading Role In Shaping The [Republican] Party’s Health Policy” And “The Party’s Alternative Vision To Democrats’ Affordable Care Act.” The Wall Street Journal failed to note the effect Price’s potential policies would have on the number of uninsured Americans. The article outlined the provisions of Price’s legislation, the Empowering Patients First Act, which “includes refundable, age-adjusted tax credits for people to buy insurance if they don’t have access to coverage through an employer or government program,” a mechanism for opting out of government-run programs like Medicare, and a provision to aid “individuals with pre-existing medical conditions by helping states set up new ‘high-risk’ pools.” From the November 29 article:

President-elect Donald Trump has chosen top officials for health-care policy, picking House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R., Ga.) as secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, the sprawling agency that will likely dismantle Democrats’ 2010 health-care overhaul.

[…]

Mr. Price, a 62-year-old former orthopedic surgeon, is one of several GOP physicians who sought to carve out a leading role in shaping the party’s health policy and, in particular, the party’s alternative vision to Democrats’ Affordable Care Act.

[…]

Mr. Price has championed his own legislation, the Empowering Patients First Act, since 2009, taking a position on a number of hot-button issues for conservative health policy thinkers. In its latest iteration, the proposal includes refundable, age-adjusted tax credits for people to buy insurance if they don’t have access to coverage through an employer or government program. People in a government program, such as Medicare, Medicaid or Tricare, would also be allowed to opt out of it and get tax credits toward the cost of private coverage instead.

Mr. Price had previously included tax deductions in his plans, a tool typically favored by harder-line conservative health-policy thinkers, but said he had “moved towards credits because we felt it was cleaner.”

The plan offers a one-time credit aimed at boosting health-savings accounts, long described by supporters as a way of bringing down medical spending, and derives part of its funding from capping how much employers can spend on providing employee health care before being taxed. The plan seeks to make health insurance available to individuals with pre-existing medical conditions by helping states set up new “high-risk” pools or other programs for such enrollees, and sets new rules allowing insurers to sell policies across state lines. [The Wall Street Journal, 11/29/16]

Experts Explain That Price’s Proposed Reforms Would Gut Access To Health Care And Significantly Curtail Reproductive Rights

Slate’s Jordan Weissmann: Price’s Health Care Plan Model On Paul Ryan’s Medicare Privatization Scheme That Turns Program “Into A Voucher System.” Slate business and economics correspondent Jordan Weissmann pointed to Price’s previous proposal to turn Medicare “into a voucher system” similar to the a privatization scheme supported by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan as one of the many reasons his nomination as HHS secretary would be “horrible news for Obamacare and Medicare.” From the November 29 article:

Donald Trump’s transition team announced on Tuesday morning that the president-elect has selected Georgia Rep. Tom Price as secretary of health and human services. The move sends at least two very loud messages. First, the incoming White House is dead serious about scrapping the Affordable Care Act. Second, it may well be open to ending Medicare as we know it.

[…]

Price is similarly keen on [Speaker of the House Paul] Ryan’s plan to transform Medicare by turning it into a voucher system, where the government would give seniors money that they could use to purchase private insurance. He included those changes in his 2015 budget, and recently told reporters that he expected Republicans to tackle Medicare “reform” some time in 2017, echoing Ryan’s own post-election comments.

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