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Alex Azar Archives — Protect Our Care

Secretary Azar Admits That HHS Is Trying To Gut Medicaid Without Congressional Approval

Washington, DC — Today, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar answered questions from Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Trump’s FY20 budget about HHS having direct conversations with various states about block granting Medicaid, all without the approval of Congress. Leslie Dach, chair of Protect Our Care, released the following statement in response:

“The block grants that Secretary Azar and Trump’s Republicans are pushing are just a thinly veiled attempt to slash Medicaid funding and rip away people’s health care, which Americans vehemently oppose. Congress has repeatedly rejected this disastrous idea and so did voters just months ago in November. It’s time for Secretary Azar to come clean with the American people about his true intention to gut Medicaid and take health care away from millions of Americans.”

Five Things You Should Know Before Sec. Azar Testifies Today

Yesterday, Sec. Azar used his testimony before the Energy and Commerce Committee on the HHS FY20 budget to distract from the damage his agency has done and is going into overdrive to continue to do to Americans’ health care. Unfortunately for Azar, he can’t hide the truth. Here’s what you should know before he testifies today at the House Appropriations Labor-HHS Subcommittee:

  1. Trump’s Budget Would Repeal The Affordable Care Act And Its Protections For People With Pre-existing Conditions. In his testimony yesterday, Azar falsely claimed that Trump’s budget requires genuine protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The truth is just the opposite. Trump’s budget would repeal Affordable Care Act, completely eliminating its protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
  2. The Trump Administration Is Actively Pushing Consumers To Purchase Junk Plans That Can Discriminate Against People With Pre-existing Conditions. Though Azar said it was important that consumers be “fully aware” that junk plans do not cover pre-existing conditions, the truth is that his administration is pushing consumers to sign up for those very plans. In July, CMS announced that it would encourage health navigator groups that are intended to help consumers enroll in ACA-compliant health plans to instead direct consumers to junk plans that lack important consumer protections.
  3. Medicaid Work Requirements Inherently Increase Paperwork And Red Tape, Causing Eligible People To Lose Coverage. The Trump administration’s budget seeks to impose a national Medicaid work requirement, despite estimates that it would cause millions to lose coverage. Already, an Arkansas work requirement has led more than 18,000 to lose coverage. Yesterday Azar claimed that he did not have data on why so many lost coverage, but multiple studies and news reports have found high levels of confusion and lack of awareness among Medicaid enrollees. The truth is simple: work requirements add barriers and reduce access to health care for people who desperately need it.
  4. Republicans Are Not Trying To Give States More Choices, They Are Trying To Dismantle Medicaid. Azar has marketed a number of policies — block granting Medicaid, imposing work requirements, allowing partial expansion — as policies that give states more choices. Not coincidentally, these policies would all radically transform Medicaid and give states the power to restrict access to their Medicaid programs.
  5. Reminder: Republicans Are So Eager To End Pre-existing Condition Protections That Trump Held A Garden Party At The Prospect Of Signing Into Law A Bill That Would Let Insurance Companies Discriminate Against People With Pre-existing Conditions. When he claimed yesterday that Trump would never sign into law a bill that does not protect people with pre-existing conditions, Azar seemed to forget that Trump threw a party in the Rose Garden at the prospect of signing the House repeal bill, which would have let insurance companies charge people with pre-existing conditions significantly more, into law. Trump was so excited that NBC wrote, “Trump, GOP Leaders Take Victory Lap After House Passes ‘Trumpcare.’”

Costs Up, Coverage Down: The Real HHS 2018 Annual Report

Washington, DC — Today, as HHS released its 2018 annual report and Secretary Azar gave a speech on drug pricing, one thing has become clear: the Trump administration does not want the American people to know the real impact of its war on health care — higher costs and less coverage. Leslie Dach, chair of Protect Our Care, issued a statement in response to Azar’s claims in his speech:

“While Secretary Azar is attempting to tout his record at HSS, Americans are suffering from the truth. The administration is  is hiding the real impact of its agenda: drug prices are going up, drug companies are enjoying massive tax giveaways, millions no longer have health insurance because of the administration’s sabotage campaign, and protections for pre-existing conditions are under attack. The claim that President Trump and Secretary Azar’s HHS improved America’s health care is ludicrous. The real story is that costs went up, coverage went down, and the American people lost out.”

Despite what’s in their annual report, we know what their record is:

  1. Drug companies continue to increase prices while reaping billions of dollars from the Trump tax bill and seeing massive profits. The Trump tax scam means billions of dollars in tax breaks for pharmaceutical companies. An Axios study found that 21 health care companies collectively expect to gain $10 billion in tax savings during 2018 alone. Most of the tax break windfall for health care companies is going toward share buybacks, dividends, acquisitions and paying down debt. Pharmaceutical companies raked in more than $30 billion in profits in the third quarter of 2018, with Pfizer alone bringing in $4.1 billion — the highest of any publicly traded health care company.  Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies continue to increase prices. In January 2019 alone, Pfizer and Novartis announced price increases on dozens of drugs, including increasing the cost of a breast cancer medication to $12,000 for 21 pills. All in all, nearly 30 drugmakers are expected to raise prices in 2019. One drug industry lobbyist has said that drug companies’ limited concessions are “a calculated risk” summarizing big pharma’s strategy to play the Trump administration: “take these nothing-burger steps and give the administration things they can take credit for.”

  1. Under Trump, the uninsured rate has risen to its highest levels since the Affordable Care Act took effect. Gallup’s quarterly health survey reveals that the uninsured rate has risen to the highest rate since the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansion was completed, leaping from 10.8 percent in 2016 to 13.7 percent in 2018 and representing about 7 million more Americans who are now uninsured. A major reason for this increase? Trump’s relentless health care sabotage. Among the factors contributing to this uninsured rate, Gallup cited increased premiums, major cuts to outreach funding and open enrollment, slashed funding to health care navigator groups, and Trump’s hostility to the ACA.
  2. Sec. Azar and the Trump administration have expanded access to junk plans that are allowed to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. In August, the Trump administration finalized a rule that allows consumers to purchase junk plans with an expanded duration of 364 days, as opposed to the the previously allowed maximum of three months, and renew such plans for up to three years. Since finalizing the rule, the Trump administration has urged navigator groups that help people sign up for coverage to push consumers toward junk plans and has issued guidance urging states to let ACA subsidies be used to purchase these skimpy plans. Junk plans are notoriously ripe for fraud, drive up health care premiums, leave consumers with worse coverage and at risk for bankruptcy.
  3. The Trump administration’s health care sabotage means Americans are paying more for premiums than they should. While Azar tries to claim that premiums have stabilized under him, health care analyst Charles Gaba has found that marketplace premiums are roughly 8 percent higher than they would be absent GOP sabotage. With GOP sabotage, premiums increased 2.8 percent in 2019. Absent such sabotage, premiums would have decreased 5.37 percent.
  4. The Trump administration has encouraged states to impose onerous Medicaid work requirements designed to kick people off of their health coverage — so far, more than 18,000 have lost coverage in Arkansas alone. In 2017, the Trump administration encouraged states to adopt policies that make it harder for people to access health care through Medicaid. One such way is by requiring Medicaid enrollees to work in order to maintain health coverage through Medicaid. So far, the Trump administration has approved waivers in seven states — AZ, AR, IN, KY, MI, MS, and WI — that will prevent people from being covered through Medicaid unless they meet restrictive requirements. Similar waivers are pending in eight states: AL, OH, OK, SD, TN, UT, and VA. Already, more than 18,000 Arkansans have lost coverage because of these burdensome requirements.
  5. Secretary Azar and the Trump administration have engaged in a years-long effort designed to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, going so far as to argue in court that protections for people with pre-existing conditions should be overturned. Trump along with Republican attorneys general and governors have already sued to try to overturn our health care laws in the Texas lawsuit. Just several weeks ago, President Trump boasted that the Affordable Care Act and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions would be “terminated” through the case. A complete list of the administration’s sabotage efforts is below and can be found in our health care sabotage tracker:

February 2019

  • Trump predicts the Affordable Care Act will be “terminated” through the Texas lawsuit seeking to overturn the law.
  • In an effort to restrict access to information about women’s reproductive health, the Trump administration removes web pages associated with the ACA and its contraceptive coverage from HHS’s Office of Population Affairs website.

January 2019

  • Thanks to GOP sabotage, the uninsured rate surges to the its highest level since 2014. Roughly seven million fewer people are estimated to have health care now than did two years ago.
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposes changes to the ACA’s benefit and payment parameters, reducing subsidies available to those who purchase health care through the exchange, increasing premiums, and raising  the out-of-pocket maximum for people with employer-sponsored health care.
  • In a win for big Pharma, the Trump administration proposes changes to the rebate system that would raise premiums, benefit pharmaceutical companies, and contain no mandate to lower list prices of drugs.

December 2018

  • Hand-picked Federal Judge Reed O’Connor rules in favor of twenty conservative states to overturn the Affordable Care Act, jeopardizing coverage for 17 million people and ripping away the ACA’s vital consumer protections such as protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
  • Under the Trump administration’s relentless sabotage, the uninsured rate increases for the first time since 2010. As the Kaiser Family Foundation finds, “In 2017, the uninsured rate reversed course and, for the first time since the passage of the ACA, rose significantly to 10.2% [from 10%].”

November 2018

  • Trump administration issues new guidance urging states to “tear down basic pillars of the Affordable Care Act, demolishing a basic rule” that federal subsidies can only be used to purchase ACA-compliant plans. Experts warn against this move, saying it will push affordable, comprehensive care further out of reach for individuals with pre-existing conditions.
  • Under the Trump administration, the number of uninsured children grows for the first time in nearly a decade. After a decade of steady decreases in the number of uninsured children, in 2017 the number of uninsured children increased from 3.6 million to 3.9 million.

October 2018

  • Republicans appoint Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh is known to be hostile to the Affordable Care Act.
  • The Trump administration issues guidance that allows federal subsidies to be used to purchase junk plans that can deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

September 2018

  • The Trump administration’s Department of Justice joins twenty conservative states in court in opening arguments to argue that the Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions should be overturned.
  • Nearly 4,600 Arkansans are unable to meet Arkansas’ reporting requirements for the state’s Medicaid work requirements and lose Medicaid coverage.

August 2018

  • Trump administration finalizes rule for bare-bones short-term plans that are exempt from key consumer protections, such as the requirement that insurance covers prescription drugs, maternity care, and hospitalization.

July 2018

  • CMS halts risk adjustment payments, that enable insurance companies to cover everyone, regardless of whether they are healthy or sick.
  • Trump Administration slashes funding for non-profit health navigator groups, that help people shop for coverage, from $36 million to $10 million. CMS encourages groups to use the remaining funds to push people to sign up for junk plans that skirt important consumer protections.
  • President Trump nominates Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh has previously forced a young woman to continue a pregnancy against her will and has criticized Justice Roberts for upholding the Affordable Care Act’s constitutionality.

June 2018

  • Department of Justice takes to the courts to argue that insurance companies should be able to discriminate against as many as 130 million Americans with a pre-existing condition.
  • Republican coalition, the Health Policy Consensus Group, released their latest proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions, let insurance companies charge older people an age tax, and deny key coverage for basic services like maternity care.
  • Trump Administration finalizes proposal to expand access to association health plans that skirt key consumer protections.

May 2018

  • President Trump boasts about health care sabotage: “We will have gotten rid of a majority of Obamacare.”
  • Trump Administration enlists help of former drug lobbyist in writing its drug plan.
  • Congressional Republicans try to use annual farm bill to authorize $65 million in taxpayer funding to set up association health plans, which can  exclude prescription drug coverage, mental health care, and maternity care.

April 2018

  • House Republicans vote on a balanced budget amendment that would cut Medicaid by $700 billion over ten years, $114 billion in a single year alone.
  • Trump Administration limits access to assistance for consumers who want to enroll in marketplace coverage. This change removes the requirement that every area has at least two “navigator” groups to provide consumer assistance and that one be local. Now, just one group could cover entire states or groups of states.

March 2018

  • Republicans sabotage efforts to pass a bipartisan bill that would have stabilized Affordable Care Act marketplaces by insisting the bill restrict access to abortion.

February 2018

  • The Trump Administration announces that it will expand access to short-term health plans that do not have to comply with key consumer protection provisions required by the Affordable Care Act.
  • Urban Institute calculates that repeal of the individual mandate and expansion of short term plans will increase individual market premiums by an average 18.2 percent in 2019.
  • Trump Administration releases budget that calls for the Affordable Care Act to be replaced by Graham-Cassidy, in a move that experts predict would reduce health coverage for 32 million Americans.

January 2018

  • The Trump Administration announces that it will support states that impose onerous work requirements on Americans covered by Medicaid, and approves Kentucky’s worst-in-the-nation waiver the next day.
  • The Trump Administration announces a move to allow providers to discriminate by allowing them to deny patient care for almost any reason.
  • The Trump Administration makes plans to announce even more exemptions from the requirement people have health coverage before this provision is repealed altogether.

December 2017

  • The Trump Administration proposes a rule to expand association health plans, which would gut consumer protections, raise costs for people with pre-existing conditions and further destabilize the insurance markets.
  • Congressional Republicans pass their tax scam, which doubles as a sneaky repeal of the Affordable Care Act  by kicking 13 million people off of their insurance and raising premiums by double digits for millions more.

November 2017

  • Republicans refuse to move forward on the bipartisan Alexander-Murray bill to address the CSR crisis even though it had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

October 2017

  • The Trump Administration takes direct aim at birth control by rolling back a rule that guaranteed women access to contraception. (A court has since questioned the legality of the action.)
  • President Trump signs an Executive Order to roll back key consumer protections that will result in garbage insurance, raise premiums, reduce coverage and again expose millions of Americans to discrimination based on pre-existing conditions.
  • The Trump Administration dramatically cuts in-person assistance to help people sign up for 2018 health coverage.
  • After threatening for months to stop funding cost-sharing reduction payments (CSRs) that help lower deductibles and out-of-pocket costs, the Trump Administration stops the payments altogether. The CBO finds that failing to make these payments will increase premiums by 20% and add nearly $200 billion to the debt.

September 2017

  • The Administration orders the Department of Health and Human Services’ regional directors to stop participating in Open Enrollment events. Mississippi Health Advocacy Program Executive Director Roy Mitchell says, “I didn’t call it sabotage…But that’s what it is.”

August 2017

  • The Administration cuts the outreach advertising budget for Open Enrollment by 90 percent, from $100 million to just $10 million – which resulted in as many as 1.1 million fewer people getting covered.

July 2017

  • The Trump Administration uses funding intended to support health insurance enrollment to launch a multimedia propaganda campaign against the Affordable Care Act.
  • President Trump, again, threatens to end cost-sharing reduction payments.

June 2017

  • Senate Republicans embark on a monthslong failed attempt to pass BCRA, Skinny Repeal and Graham-Cassidy, all repeal bills that would have caused millions of Americans to lose their health coverage and raised premiums by double digits for millions more. They would have ended Medicaid as we know it, putting the care of children, seniors and people with disabilities at risk.

May 2017

  • House Republicans vote for and pass a health care repeal bill that would cause 23 million people to lose coverage and gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions. It would have imposed an age tax and allowed insurers to charge people over 50 five times more for coverage and ended Medicaid as we know it, putting the care of seniors, children and people with disabilities in jeopardy.

April 2017

  • The Trump Administration cuts the number of days people could sign up for coverage during open enrollment by half, from 90 days to 45 days.
  • In an effort to convince Democrats to negotiate a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, President Trump threatens to cut off cost-sharing reduction payments (CSRs) that help low-income marketplace customers pay for out-of-pocket costs.

March 2017

  • The Trump Administration sends a letter to governors encouraging them to submit proposals which include provisions such as work requirements that make it harder for Medicaid beneficiaries to get affordable care and increase the number of people who are uninsured.

February 2017

  • The Trump Administration proposes a rule to weaken Marketplace coverage and raise premiums for millions of middle-class families.

January 2017

  • On his first day in office, President Trump signs an Executive Order directing the administration to identify every way it can unravel the Affordable Care Act.
  • Also on January 20th, the Department of Health and Human Services begins to remove information on how to sign up for the Affordable Care Act.
  • The Trump Administration pulls funding for outreach and advertising for the final days of 2017 enrollment. This move is estimated to have reduced enrollment by nearly 500,000.

New Trump Rule on Drug Rebates is Just a Gift to Big Pharma

Washington, DC– Yesterday, the Trump administration proposed a rule to the drug rebate system that they falsely claimed would help consumers and lower drug prices. Leslie Dach, chair of Protect Our Care, issued the following statement:

“This administration’s plan  – another multi-billion dollar giveaway to the big drug companies – will raise Medicare premiums with zero guarantees that it will lower costs for patients. Meanwhile, the administration opposes what really needs to happen — end drug company price gouging on everyday drugs like insulin that millions of Americans rely on, and let Medicare directly negotiate with drug companies to truly lower prices. With a former pharmaceutical executive running HHS, it’s no surprise the administration continues to side with big drug companies and ignore the needs of patients and older Americans.”

Shot/Chaser: The Trump Administration Feigns Ignorance on Health Care Sabotage

Today, at an event sponsored by Axios, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar feigned ignorance about why enrollment in the health care marketplaces is lower this year compared to last year. We have an idea. Don’t forget: the last day to sign up is December 15.

 

SHOT: “We don’t know why they’re at where they are now.” [Axios]

 

CHASER:

  • This year, the Trump administration slashed funding for non-profit health navigator groups, that help people shop for coverage, by nearly 75 percent.
  • For the second consecutive year, the Trump administration spent $10 million on the advertising budget to get the word out about open enrollment, down 90 percent from $100 million under the Obama administration.
  • This year, the Trump administration issued new guidance urging states to “tear down basic pillars of the Affordable Care Act,” that would make comprehensive coverage more unaffordable.
  • This year, the Trump administration made it easier for insurance companies to sell junk health insurance that can deny people coverage based on a pre-existing condition.

Today in Health Care Sabotage: Administration Shifts Millions Away From Health Care Services…and Toward Child Detention

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar Undermines Health Care in Decision to Shift Funds Away from Health Care Services

Washington, D.C. – In its latest act of health care sabotage and in support of its cruel immigration policy, HHS Secretary Azar is shifting nearly half a billion dollars away from medical research, HIV/AIDS treatment and Affordable Care Act implementation toward detention of migrant children. Leslie Dach, chair of Protect Our Care, released the following statement in response:

“This is more than just health care sabotage, this is health care sabotage committed for the purpose of keeping children and families apart. It is shameful and outright wrong. Azar is only the latest Republican to play a dangerous game with the individuals who need health care the most.”

Alex Azar Lies Through His Teeth About Spiking Premiums

Washington, D.C. – This morning, after Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar misled Members of Congress while testifying before the House Committee on Education & the Workforce, Protect Our Care released a video of House Democrats pressing Azar on his destructive policies, as well as a statement from Communications Director Marjorie Connolly:

“Alex Azar went to Capitol Hill today and continued to lie through his teeth about health care. He repeatedly touted the Administration’s proposed short-term junk plans, while ignoring questions about why these plans can exclude essential health benefits like cancer treatment, maternity care, and treatment for substance use disorder and can deny coverage altogether to people with pre-existing conditions. Azar also tried to duck responsibility for rising premiums, despite a huge quantity of nonpartisan analyses and statements from insurance companies that point directly to Republican sabotage, including the tax bill and junk plan proposal, as culprits behind rising costs. In short, it was just another dishonest day at the office for the ex-insurance lobbyist who is leading Republicans’ partisan repeal-and-sabotage campaign against Americans’ health care.”

“The Health Industry Appears Unfazed”: President Trump’s Phony Prescription Drug Speech Not Getting Better with Age

President Trump’s widely-panned prescription drug pricing speech continues to earn poor reviews for choosing big drug companies over everyday Americans. The early reviews of the speech were not kind, with headlines ranging from “Looks Nothing Like What He Promised” to “Lets Drug Companies Off the Hook,” and they haven’t let up. As HHS Secretary Alex Azar attempts to cover the Administration’s tracks with his own speech this morning, here are some late-breaking headlines about Trump’s tone-deaf speech:

Washington Post: Trump’s drug price retreat adds to list of abandoned populist promises

Washington Post: The health industry appears unfazed by Trump’s drug pricing speech

Bloomberg: Drug Industry Dodges Its Worst Fears in Trump’s Plan to Lower Prices

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Experts say Trump’s prescription to reduce drug prices is not what the doctor ordered

PharmTech: Trump Drug Pricing Plan Outlines Rule Changes Pharma Can Live With

Fox News: Trump’s new prescription drug plan is incomplete — here are two ways to make it better

STAT News: Trump promised to bring pharma to justice. His speech sent drug stocks soaring

McKnight’s Long-Term Care News: Trump prescription plan doesn’t include Medicare-negotiated pricing

The American Prospect: To Bring Drug Prices Down, Trump Proposes — Nothing, Really

Fortune: Why Trump’s Big Drug Price Speech Sent Health Care Stocks Soaring

Misleading Congress, Azar Denies Reality of Rate Hikes

HHS SECRETARY AZAR: “I really do not believe it will have a significant impact on our risk pool, the repeal of that..I don’t see the premium effect.” [Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, 5/10/18]

EX-HHS SECRETARY TOM PRICE: “There are many, and I am one of them, who believes that that actually will harm the pool in the exchange market because you’ll likely have individuals who are younger and healthier not participating in that market. And, consequently, that drives up the cost for other folks in that market.” [World Health Care Congress speech, 5/1/18]

VIRGINIA INSURANCE COMPANIES: “Both Cigna and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield cited policies advocated by the Trump administration, including the repeal of ObamaCare’s individual mandate, as part of its justifications for the increases. Cigna is proposing an average premium increase of 15 percent for its 103,264 customers in Virginia, with a range of increases from 6.4 percent to 40 percent. CareFirst is proposing a 64 percent increase for its approximately 4,500 customers in the commonwealth, citing an increase in sicker people entering the marketplace.” [The Hill, 5/4/18]

CONGRESSMAN DON BEYER (D-VA): “Come to Virginia, where premiums will soar by up to 64% because of sabotage by your boss and your agency, and say that again. Maryland too. Have you looked, or talked to actual people?” [Twitter, 5/11/18]

This Week in the War on Health Care

This week, while Congress was on recess, the Trump Administration continued its unprecedented assault on the American health care system. Here’s what happened this week in the Republicans’ war on health care – and the extensive data showing that opposition to the GOP health care agenda is only growing:

SHORT-TERM PLANS? MORE LIKE LONG-TERM SCAMS

On Tuesday, the Trump Administration announced a proposal to let insurance companies sell short-term plans year-round. These plans skirt Affordable Care Act requirements to cover essential health benefits like cancer treatment, substance use treatment, and maternity care and can deny coverage altogether for those with pre-existing conditions.

What do these plans do?

  • Short-term health plans offer inadequate medical coverage and circumvent fundamental consumer protections
  • Short-term plans provide junk coverage which leaves those who get sick with thousands of dollars in unpaid bills
  • Short-term plans offer subpar coverage coverage which will raise premiums and destabilize markets

The negative reactions to this backdoor sabotage came fast and thick:

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Liver Foundation, American Lung Association, Arthritis Foundation, Consumers Union, Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Epilepsy Foundation, Leukemia And Lymphoma Society, Lutheran Services In America, March Of Dimes, National Health Council, National Ms Society, National Organization For Rare Disorders, United Way, World Wide Volunteers Of America: “The proposed rule released today would permit insurance companies to offer substandard insurance policies to millions of americans… as organizations committed to ensuring that coverage remains affordable, accessible, and adequate for all americans, we cannot support this proposal.” [Consumers Union, 2/20/18]

America’s Health Insurance Plans: “We remain concerned the expanded use of short-term plans could further fragment the individual market, which would lead to higher premiums for many consumers, particularly those with pre-existing conditions.”  [Twitter, 2/20/18]

Mike Kreidler, Washington State Insurance Commissioner: “If you get sick you may not be able to renew your coverage — there are no protections for people with pre-existing conditions. maternity care and mental-health benefits often are excluded.” [New York Times, 2/20/18]

Larry Levitt, Kaiser Family Foundation Senior Vice President: “Short-term insurance plans don’t cover pre-existing conditions, don’t cover the aca’s essential benefits, and can impose annual limits on coverage.” [Twitter, 2/20/18]

Rachel Sachs, Health Law Professor: “The government will spend millions more to provide fewer people with comprehensive coverage.” [Twitter, 2/20/18]

REPUBLICANS GO AFTER PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS

The most popular provision of the Affordable Care Act is its ban on insurance company discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions. Short-term plans would once again force consumers to fill out medical history forms, and pay the price if they check the wrong boxes. Don’t believe us? Take a look at the headlines yourself:

NBC News: Trump pushes insurance that doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions

Vox: Trump’s quiet campaign to bring back preexisting conditions

Alaska Native News: Trump’s Latest Sabotage Targets Americans with Pre-existing Conditions

USA Today: Trump proposes 12-month insurance plans that don’t cover people, issues Obamacare requires

NPR: Trump Administration Wants To Let Insurers Offer Plans With Fewer Benefits

New York Times Editorial Board: Trump Tries to Kill Obamacare by a Thousand Cuts

CAUGHT IN A LIE

Also this week, top Administration health officials Secretary Alex Azar and Administrator Seema Verma directly contradicted their own short-term plan regulation as they desperately tried to spin away the damage which would be inflicted on Americans’ ability to access quality, affordable health care:

What They Said What Their Reg Said
Individual market premiums VERMA: “This shift will have will have virtually no impact on the individual market premiums.” HHS REG: “It would result in an increase in premiums for the individuals remaining in those risk pools. An increase in premiums for individual market single risk pool coverage would result in an increase in Federal outlays for APTC.”
Lower-quality coverage VERMA: “While in the past these plans have been a bridge, now they can be a lifeline.” HHS REG: “Consumers who purchase short-term, limited-duration insurance policies and then develop chronic conditions could face financial hardship as a result, until they are able to enroll in PPACA-compliant plans that would provide for such conditions.”
Fewer insurance options AZAR: “This is a group of people, they live in areas of the country where there’s one plan they might have access to, so they’re looking for other options.” HHS REG: “Individual market issuers could experience higher than expected costs of care and suffer financial losses, which might prompt them to leave the individual market.”
Short-term or not? AZAR: “We are proposing that these plans would be available up to 12 months for people … We are asking for comment on whether we have the legal authority to let people renew their plans.” HHS REG: “Short-term, limited-duration insurance is a type of health insurance coverage that was designed to fill temporary gaps in coverage that may occur when an individual is transitioning from one plan or coverage to another.”
Pre-existing conditions AZAR: “These plans may have fewer benefits than we’re used to, they may have more restrictions, and also they may be able to limit who they insure for. That’s part of this.” HHS REG: “Short-term, limited-duration insurance policies would be unlikely to include all the elements of PPACA-compliant plans, such as the preexisting condition exclusion prohibition.”

CROCODILE TEARS FROM THE SWAMPIEST ADMINISTRATION

On Thursday, Axios reported that America’s largest pharmaceutical companies are using their windfall from the GOP tax scam to drive up their own stock prices to the tune of $50 billion, “a sum that towers over investments in employees or drug research and development.” Why is this so appalling?

  • The GOP cried crocodile tears over the cost of prescription drugs – and then gave Big Pharma a giant windfall through their tax scam.
  • The GOP has consistently voted to raise prescription drug costs, from the health care repeal that would get rid of Medicare’s prescription drug benefit to their confirmation of a Big Pharma executive who let drug prices skyrocket to lead HHS.
  • All the while, millions of Americans continue struggling to afford their prescription drugs, too often being forced to choose between their medication and a meal. And the GOP does nothing.

On prescription drugs, as well as their broader war on health care, however, the GOP’s actions, are finally catching up to them…

AMERICANS AGREE: KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF OUR HEALTH CARE

Four polls over six weeks have reached the same conclusion: the ACA has achieved lasting popularity, the electorate is angry about GOP sabotage, and health care is voters’ top priority. Here’s what the numbers say:

Last week, Public Policy Polling released its first national poll of the year, contrasting the rising popularity of the Affordable Care Act with the blame being leveled on President Trump’s sabotage:

  • Approval for the Affordable Care Act is 12 points above water (47% approval to 35% disapproval), a dramatic reversal from trends before Trump took office.
  • Over half of voters know Republicans are sabotaging health care, with 51% believing the Trump Administration is actively taking steps that will raise people’s health care costs.

Also last week, a Priorities USA memo found that President Trump’s handling of health care remains vastly unpopular, especially among independent voters:

  • On the policy of health care, Donald Trump has a 34/46 favorable/unfavorable message.
  • On his handling of drug pricing, 60% of voters have major concerns, including 71% among independents.

These polls came on the heels of a January Washington Post/ABC News poll asking Americans about President Trump’s time in office, which found that Americans are most united in opposition to the GOP’s health care agenda:

  • Asked if keeping “Obamacare” was a good thing for the country, 57 percent of respondents said yes – a significantly higher percentage than any other policy. The only policy underwater? The GOP tax scam, which kicked millions off of their insurance and was opposed 46% – 34%.

And all of these polls followed a Hart Research memo which found health care is the number one issue among voters, far exceeding anything else:

  • “Healthcare far exceeds any other issue as an important driver of voting preferences, with over half of all voters identifying healthcare as one of their top priorities in the 2018 congressional elections, with 54% of those surveyed choose health care as one of the two issues that will be the most important to them in deciding how to vote for Congress.”
  • Healthcare is the most frequently cited priority among Democrats (68%), independents (54%), and Republicans (38%). It is particularly important to African-American voters (66%) and to white women voters, whether they are college graduates (62%) or non-college graduates (59%).

One poll can be an outlier, two a coincidence – but four polls in six weeks independently highlighting the importance of health care and the contrast between the Affordable Care Act’s popularity and the GOP’s sabotage show just how important this issue is to the American people.

From coast to coast, constituents are making their view abundantly clear: it’s time for the GOP to stop its war on health care, and there will be significant consequences should President Trump and Congressional Republicans fail to heed this advice.