Those worried that Donald Trump would waffle on his promise to repeal Obamacare will find some of those concerns quelled with his nomination of Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) to be secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Price, a doctor who chairs the House Budget Committee, has been one of the most vocal critics of Obamacare and has offered multiple replacement plans over the years.
Just last month, he called the Affordable Care Act a “ridiculous” law with “failures” that “have been piling up.”
He promised a “a clean break with the past,” including “a plan to repeal Obamacare and start over with real, patient-centered solutions – that puts patients and families and doctors in charge – not Washington DC.”
From the outset of the congressional debate surrounding Obamacare, Price led the charge against it. He spoke at Tea Party rallies protesting the legislation and introduced his own bills to counter the health care overhaul sought by the Democrats.
Once Obamacare was passed, Price participated in congressional hearings, railing against the law.
“Over the last three months, the truth has come out,” Price said in 2010, not long after the ACA was enacted. “Obamacare does not lower costs, create jobs, decrease the deficit or protect your current health care plan.”
In 2011, he called it a “government takeover that will destroy 800,000 jobs,” and predicted it would “accelerate our path to fiscal ruin.”
Price was also among the Republicans who in 2012 distorted Congressional Budget Office projections for the cost of Obamacare in order to claim the law had doubled in price since it was passed.
Over the course of Obamacare’s history, Price released various versions of his replacement plan, the Empowering Patients First Act. The plan would convert Obamacare’s subsidies to tax credits that would grow according to age, rather by income — meaning that a wealthy older person under his plan would receive more of a break on health insurance than a low-income 20-something. It would dismantle the exchanges and permit insurers to sell to consumers across state lines, which critics say would lead to a regulatory race to the bottom. It also would swap Obamacare’s pre-existing conditions requirement for a continuous coverage provision, which would protect consumers from seeing their premiums jacked up for health issues only if they maintain coverage continuously.
Though Price’s legislation racked up a few dozen co-sponsors over the years, it never got the traction to move out of committee and on to the floor for a vote, mirroring congressional Republicans’ persistent inability to come up with a viable Obamacare alternative.
There have been times that Price has expressed an openness to some aspects of the Affordable Care Act. For instance, as Republicans scrambled in 2012 to come up with a back-up plan in case the Supreme Court struck down major parts of the law, Price said he was willing to allow some of the popular provisions of Obamacare to survive.
“We believe that the whole bill needs to be repealed,” Price said. “That being said, there are some things that have been instituted that a lot of folks have begun to rely upon and plan — make their family plans — based upon. Twenty-six-year-olds being on their parents’ insurance is one of them.”
But with the prospect of a Republican White House, Price has trumpeted his long-held calls for repeal, telling attendees at a Trump campaign event earlier this month that Trump “has committed to fully repealing this failed law” and that the congressman looked “forward to working with the Trump Administration to make healthcare more affordable and accessible.”
Since Trump’s election, Price has been vague on exactly how Republicans intend to repeal and replace Obamacare. But he has been quick to point to the white paper released by House Speaker Paul Ryan known as ‘A Better Way’ that embraced some of his previous ideas.
“All you have to do is look at the Better Way,” Price told reporters before the Thanksgiving break, when asked about the GOP’s Obamacare plans.