Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on Sunday made a bold and questionable prediction about the Senate GOP bill to repeal and replace Obamacare: He argued that the legislation could actually provide health insurance to more individuals than the Affordable Care Act, a claim undermined by the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the bill.
Price made the comment while discussing how the Senate bill closes a gap that existed in certain states that chose not to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. In those states, there is a section of the population that does not qualify for traditional Medicaid, but makes too little to qualify for subsidies on the exchanges since Obamacare intended to cover it through Medicaid expansion. The Senate bill closes this gap, and Price used that provision to argue that more people would be covered under the new legislation.
“That also is one of the reasons we believe we’re gonna be able to cover more individuals on this bill than are currently covered. I know that’s counterintuitive to folks that have been reading other headlines, but the goal is to get every single American covered and have access to the kind of coverage that they want,” he said on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.”
The CBO has yet to release its score of the revised Senate repeal bill, but its analysis of the initial version of the bill shows that 22 million fewer people would have health insurance by 2026. It’s not clear that the revisions to the Senate bill would improve matters much.
Price on Sunday tried to delegitimize that CBO score, calling it an “opinion” and arguing that the CBO does not take into account people who purchase catastrophic plans.
Host Maria Bartiromo said she thought it was an “important point” that many people who would go without coverage under the Senate plan would do so by choice.
“Oh, it is an important point. It’s also CBO’s opinion,” Price said in response, noting people could purchase catastrophic plans under the Senate bill, which only cover three primary care visits a year and have high out-of-pocket costs. He claimed that “a health savings account with a high deductible catastrophic plan” does not “count in CBO’s formula.”
“So CBO doesn’t even capture those individuals who say to the federal government, ‘I don’t want the plan that you think I need, I want the plan that I know I need for myself and my family,'” Price said. “So those numbers are so flawed in terms of what actually happens in the real world when people act for themselves in an appropriate way and get that kind of coverage that they want.”
Price’s comments about the CBO’s methodology appear to be misleading, however. In a December blog post, the CBO said that it counts “catastrophic plans as private insurance coverage because they typically provide major medical coverage and are permitted under the ACA in limited circumstances.”
Watch Price’s interview via Fox News: