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Secretary Azar Archives — Protect Our Care

All-Lies on Azar

Day One of Secretary Azar’s Testimony On the Budget Featured Blame-Shifting and Deceit on Everything from Junk Plans to Trump’s Proposed Cuts to Medicare

Is Congress In for More of the Same Tomorrow?

Washington, DC – In response to today’s dishonest testimony from Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on President Trump’s FY20 budget before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, Protect Our Care executive director Brad Woodhouse released the following statement:

“It’s no surprise that Trump’s HHS Secretary, a former pharmaceutical executive, would refuse to level with the American people at today’s hearing about the administration’s plans to terminate the ACA through the Texas lawsuit, sell junk insurance plans, and slash Medicare and Medicaid by over $2 trillion. Time and again, Secretary Azar refused to answer questions about the Trump budget’s deep cuts to Medicaid and Medicare or provide any evidence for his baseless claim about this administration’s interest in providing protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

“Make no mistake, Alex Azar is President Trump’s Field General in this administration’s war on American health care. Under his watch, the uninsured rate has increased, open enrollment has been sabotaged, junk insurance plans are poised to undermine Americans’ health care and thousands of people in states like Arkansas have lost coverage due to ridiculous (paper) work requirements. While Alex Azar has learned from his boss how to lie his way through direct question, the results of his policies speak for themselves: insurance and drug companies make out like bandits while the American people get the shaft.”

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.”

3 Facts You Should Know After Sec. Azar’s Ways and Means Hearing

HHS Secretary Alex Azar appeared before the House Ways and Means Committee today and doubled down on the Trump Administration’s war on health care. His language may have been nuanced, but the policy results would be the same. Here are three key facts you should know after his testimony today.

FACT #1: THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S OPIOID FUNDING WILL NOT BE EFFECTIVE IF IT CONTINUES PARTISAN EFFORTS TO REPEAL THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT AND GUT MEDICAID

WHAT SEC. AZAR SAID: “The President’s Budget recognizes the devastation caused by this [opioid] crisis across America, by providing a historic new investment of $10 billion in HHS funding to address the opioid crisis and serious mental illness…”

THE FACTS: While the additional funding for opioids is welcomed, it will have little to no impact if the Administration continues its partisan push to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and gut Medicaid.

  • Vox: Trump’s budget could help fight the opioid crisis — if it didn’t try to repeal Obamacare. Vox: “Medicaid is particularly important in this area. A 2014 study by Truven Health Analytics researchers found that Medicaid paid for about 25 percent — $7.9 billion of $31.3 billion — of projected public and private spending for addiction treatment in 2014. That made it the second-biggest payer of addiction treatment after all local and state government programs. Yet not only would Trump’s budget plan end the Obamacare-funded Medicaid expansion, it would also make additional cuts to Medicaid.”

FACT #2: SEC. AZAR DOUBLED DOWN ON THE PARTISAN REPEAL ATTEMPT THAT WILL RIP COVERAGE AWAY FROM TENS OF MILLIONS, RAISE COSTS FOR MILLIONS MORE, AND GUT PROTECTIONS FOR PEOPLE WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS

WHAT SEC. AZAR SAID: “The Budget supports repealing Obamacare and replacing the law with flexibility for states to create free and open healthcare tailored to citizens’ needs. The two-part approach is modeled closely after the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson amendment to H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act of 2017, and also includes additional reforms to put healthcare spending on a sustainable fiscal path.”

THE FACTS: The Graham-Cassidy legislation was the worst of all the partisan repeal efforts Congress considered last year that ripped coverage away from tens of millions of people, raised costs on millions more, gutted protections for pre-existing conditions, and slashed Medicaid.

  • Analysts Agree: Every State Loses Under Graham-Cassidy and Many Working and Middle Class Families See Their Costs Increase. Multiple independent analyses agree that the Graham-Cassidy repeal bill would cut federal funding to states. Over time, every state loses because Graham-Cassidy zeroes out its block grants and ratchets down its spending on the Medicaid per capita cap. This means people would not have access to the financial assistance to help lower their health care bills, and federal Medicaid funding would no longer adjust for public health emergencies, prescription drug or other cost spikes, or other unexpected increases in need.
  • 32 Million Would Lose Health Coverage. As a result of zeroing out block grants for Marketplace tax credits and Medicaid expansion and additional cuts to Medicaid, the Graham-Cassidy bill is essentially repealing the Affordable Care Act without replacing it.
  • Graham-Cassidy Would Raise Costs For People With Pre-Existing Conditions. Graham-Cassidy would allow states to let insurance companies once again charge people with pre-existing conditions more, which could raise costs for the more than 134 million Americans that have a pre-existing condition. An individual with asthma, for example, would face a premium surcharge of $4,340. The surcharge for pregnancy would be $17,320, while it would be $142,650 more for patients with metastatic cancer.

FACT #3: SEC. AZAR DOUBLED DOWN ON THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S WAR ON MEDICAID

WHAT SEC. AZAR SAID: “Our budget proposes a new future for Medicaid that will restructure Medicaid financing, provide states with new flexibilities to better serve our communities, improve the state plan and waiver processes, and provide the right incentives to preserve the program for future generations.”

THE FACTS: The Trump Administration is doubling down on its war on Medicaid by continuing to push for the Graham-Cassidy legislation that ended Medicaid expansion, which has given 15 million people access to care, and by slashing traditional Medicaid, putting the care of millions of seniors, children, and people with disabilities at risk. The Administration’s attempts to impose onerous work requirements are not about work, but about kicking people off their health care. The fact is most people on Medicaid who can work, are working. These requirements are the opposite of what we need to be doing to help people find and keep jobs.

Protect Our Care Calls On Azar to Stand Up for Idahoans’ Coverage

After HHS Secretary Alex Azar dodged questions posed by the House Ways and Means Committee about an Idaho insurance company that intends to sell plans that violate Affordable Care Act minimum quality standards and protections for people with pre-existing conditions, saying “I’m not aware that our opinions or views have been solicited,” Protect Our Care Campaign Director Brad Woodhouse released the following statement:

“Dodging the question won’t cut it: Secretary Azar needs to stand up and protect health care for the people of Idaho by stopping the state’s illegal plan to allow pre-Affordable Care Act coverage. This morning we learned that Blue Cross Idaho is trying to take Idahoans back to the days of coverage caps, when people with insurance still lived one illness or injury away from bankruptcy. Even worse, the company is planning to charge people higher premiums based on their medical history, bringing Idaho back to the days when insurers could discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions like asthma or cancer. Medical bankruptcy and coverage denials are exactly the kind of insurance company abuses the Affordable Care Act was designed to stop, and it has done so with popular provisions that most Republicans claim to support. Now, it’s time for Secretary Azar to stand up for the people of Idaho and enforce the law that’s designed to protect their care.”

Ignoring Obamacare Rules, Idaho ‘Freedom’ Plans Come With Limits

Bloomberg // Zachary Tracer // February 14, 2018

After Idaho’s Republican governor promised to find creative ways to get around Obamacare, one health plan in the state plans to offer skimpy coverage that may violate many of the law’s protections for patients.

Blue Cross of Idaho said Wednesday that it will offer insurance plans that don’t comply with some Affordable Care Act requirements. The plans, branded as “Freedom Blue” coverage, have limits on annual medical spending and will charge sicker people higher premiums or deny them coverage in some cases — policies specifically forbidden by the 2010 law.

The move sets up a potential conflict with the federal government. While President Donald Trump has said he opposes the law and has taken steps to undermine it, the administration will have to decide whether to enforce legal requirements that remain on the books.

“Both in terms of federal penalties and in terms of potential private lawsuits, they are taking on tremendous liabilities here,” said Tim Jost, an emeritus professor at the Washington and Lee University School of Law who has been critical of efforts to unwind the law. “What they’re doing is completely illegal. It’s kind of jaw-dropping.”

Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, said during a Senate hearing last year that he’d uphold the ACA as long as it remains law. Azar is testifying before Congress Wednesday. The department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ways Around Law

In early January, Idaho Governor Butch Otter directed the state’s insurance regulator to find “creative ways” for health insurers in the state to offer more affordable coverage. Otter said the state planned to use flexibility offered by the Trump administration in an executive order, and that it had authority to do so. The insurance regulator issued guidelines for the plans later that month.

“The door is open for states to pursue our own reasonable solutions,” Otter said. “We believe Idaho will lead the way in states taking back control of their insurance markets.”

“Our Freedom Blue plans bring more choices and lower prices to consumers,” Blue Cross Idaho Chief Executive Officer Charlene Maher said in a statement.

The plans have a $1 million annual per-person limit to how much care the insurer will pay for. Some also don’t have to cover services like maternity care, and can charge more to people who are sicker after asking them extensive questions about their health.

While such policies were banned by the Affordable Care Act, Idaho plans to use the law as a backstop. If individuals end up with medical expenses that exceed the $1 million limit in the non-Obamacare plans, Idaho will require insurers to help them move into ACA plans, which don’t have limits on medical spending.