ATLANTA -- When he faces confirmation, Georgia Congressman Tom Price will face a lot of questions about health care. He’s been a constant critic of the Affordable Care Act, and would lead its repeal and replacement as Secretary of Health and Human Services in Donald Trump’s administration.
Rep. Price has written a 242 page bill that he has proposed as a replacement for Obamacare – and could be used as a blueprint for Donald Trump, who has vowed to do just that.
Price calls his bill the “Empowering Patients First Act.” Its very first provision repeals the Affordable Care Act. It replaces health insurance subsidies with tax credits.
The tax credits are based on age, not income: $900 annually for children; $1200 at age 18 to 35 – adjusting upward to $3000 for people fifty and over.
"Congressman Price’s bill has a provision for a refundable tax credit which is like a voucher," said Kelly McCutchen, whose think tank, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, has worked with Price on an Obamacare alternative. "You don’t have to owe taxes to get credit for this for low income Americans to be able to purchase insurance."
Price’s health care proposal would expand health savings accounts, pretax accounts to pay for premiums and co-payments. But Price’s plan also rolls back insurance coverage for preexisting conditions, one of Obamacare’s most popular provisions.
If a patient gets new insurance, it would cover a pre-existing condition only if the patient had held a policy during the previous 18 months. If not, then the new insurer could deny coverage for 18 more months.
But the plan calls for the federal government to fund state-run “high risk pools” for uninsured patients with existing medical conditions.
McCutchen says that public funding would provide the safety net for the sick and uninsured.
"We’re not going to throw people out into the streets. We’re going to provide coverage for low income Americans," McCutchen said. "So I think it’s highly inaccurate to say (Republicans) don’t have any kind of a plan."
Democrats say the plan is insufficient and would leave millions uninsured.
Though McCutchen's think tank is conservative, he credits Democrats for making health care a national issue eight years ago -- even though it produced legislation he considers misguided.
McCutchen thinks at least a few congressional Democrats will embrace a replacement if they're convinced it costs less and helps more patients.