Georgia Rep. Tom Price has been a fierce critic of the Affordable Care Act and a leading advocate of repealing and replacing the 2010 health care law.
Price, an orthopedic surgeon from the suburbs of Atlanta, introduced his own legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare in the current Congress and the three previous sessions. Price’s plan, known as the Empowering Patients First Act, was the basis for a subsequent health care proposal unveiled by House Speaker Paul Ryan, with Price’s endorsement, in June.
Price’s major complaint about the ACA is that it puts the government in the middle of the doctor-patient relationship.
“They believe the government ought to be in control of health care,” Price said in June at the American Enterprise Institute event where Ryan unveiled the Republican proposal to replace Obamacare. “We believe that patients and doctors should be in control of health care,” Price continued. “People have coverage, but they don’t have care.”
Now that President-elect Donald Trump has tapped Price to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, here are five key planks in his own health care proposal — and how it differs from the one put forth by Ryan.
- Price’s plan offers fixed tax credits so people can buy their own insurance on the private market. The credit starts at $1,200 a year and rises with age — but unlike Ryan’s plan, it’s not adjusted for income. Everyone receives the same credit whether they are rich or poor. People on Medicaid, Medicare, the military health plan known as Tricare, or the Veterans Affairs’ health plan could opt instead for the tax credit to buy private insurance.
- Price advocates for expansion of health savings accounts, which allow people to save money before taxes to pay for health care. This includes allowing people who are covered by government health programs including Medicare and the VA to contribute to health savings accounts to pay for premiums and copayments. These proposals are included in Ryan’s plan.
- People with existing medical conditions couldn’t be denied coverage under Price’s plan as long as they had continuous insurance for 18 months prior to selecting a new policy. If they didn’t, then they could be denied coverage for that condition for up to 18 months after buying a new plan.
- The Price proposal limits the amount of money companies can deduct from their taxes for employee health insurance expenses. Companies can deduct up to $20,000 for a family health insurance plan and $8,000 for an individual. The goal is to discourage companies from offering overly generous insurance benefits to their workers. Ryan’s plan proposes a cap on the employer tax deduction but doesn’t specify the level of the cap.
- States would get federal money to create so-called high-risk pools under Price’s plan. These are government-run health plans for people with existing medical conditions who can’t get affordable health insurance on the private market. Critics say high-risk pools have been tried in as many as 34 states and largely failed because they were routinely underfunded.
Price has said he’s not wedded to his own ideas and is open to compromise, so the final proposal to replace Obamacare is likely to be a hybrid of his ideas and those hammered out with other Republican House members and presented as Ryan’s plan.
Still, with Price on track to be at the helm of HHS, he would be the one writing the rules to implement whatever legislation is eventually passed.