This morning, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar refused to even acknowledge or address last week’s shock move by the Trump Administration to attack critical protections for up to 132 million Americans with pre-existing conditions. In response to a pointed question from Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Azar made the laughable argument that the new attack is “a legal matter” and “not a policy position” and refused to explain or defend the Administration’s outrageous new stance. Protect Our Care Campaign Director Brad Woodhouse responded:
“Once again, Secretary Azar misled the public about the Trump Administration’s dangerous attacks on Americans’ health care. When Senator Hassan pointed out the simple fact that the Administration’s actions to axe protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions could prevent millions of Americans from getting needed care, Secretary Azar said that the Trump Administration’s position is ‘not a policy position,’ and refused to explain or defend it. This is a ludicrous and plainly false statement, and Secretary Azar and the Trump Administration should be ashamed of both their dangerous action and their subsequent refusal to square with the public about how this lawsuit could wreak havoc on our health care.”
HASSAN: I want to turn to a different topic now. This administration has released its blueprint and it says it wants to lower prescription drug costs. As you and I have discussed I don’t think the blueprint accomplishes what it sets out to do, but not even a month after releasing the blueprint the Trump administration told a federal court that it would not defend the preexisting conditions. This administration is talking out of both sides of its mouth. If the ACA protections disappear because the Trump Administration is putting politics over people and refusing to defend these very popular provisions in the ACA, then many Americans who need health insurance won’t be able to get it. Meaning they won’t have insurance to help them afford their medication. This, Mr. Secretary, is like some kind of sick joke. The Administration is trying to pull the wool over the American people’s eyes, paying lip service to affordable prescription drugs and their do-little blueprint, while gutting protections for preexisting conditions which will make drugs less affordable for patients who lose their coverage. Given that the ACA’s preexisting conditions protections are critical, yes or no, will you encourage the Trump Administration to change its position and defend the preexisting conditions protections in the Affordable Care Act?
AZAR: So the position articulated by the Attorney General is a constitutional and legal position, not a policy position. But we share the view of working to ensure that individuals with preexisting conditions can have access to affordable health insurance. We look forward to working with congress under all circumstances.
HASSAN: Then the President should instruct his Attorney General and the Department of Justice to do what they are obligated to do defend the Affordable Care Act, by the way, provisions of which such as this one, the American people overwhelmingly support.