Burwell To Lay Out Key Issues GOP Must Address When Replacing Obamacare

January 9, 2017 10:48 a.m.

This post has been updated.

Secretary of Health of Human Services Sylvia Burwell will deliver a speech Monday in which she will list the main considerations for Republicans if they repeal and replace Obamacare.

In her speech, Burwell will urge Republicans to make sure that any new law ensures that health care is accessible and affordable, and that plans to not drop in quality, according to excerpts from her prepared remarks provided to reporters on Monday.

Burwell will note that Obamacare set a minimum standard for health insurance plans and will warn Republicans against allowing insurers to offer “a-la-carte” plans.

“First, which benefits should we allow insurance plans to drop? Mental health? Maternity coverage? Prescription drugs? The limits on out-of-pocket costs? All of these benefits were missing from a large share of plans before the Affordable Care Act. Plans without them were certainly cheaper, but, as the Congressional Budget Office recently pointed out, it’s not clear they offered genuine coverage,” Burwel said in her prepared remarks. “Making coverage lighter by cutting back standards creates more problems than it solves. It might work for the healthy and the wealthy, but it will put needed care out of reach for millions of Americans.”

The health secretary will emphasize that barring insurers from denying access to those with pre-existing conditions with the Affordable Care Act only worked because the government also provided tax credits to low-income Americans. And she will also advise Republicans not to cut Medicare spending.

In her speech, Burwell will further warn the GOP that repealing Obamacare without a replacement in place could cause chaos in the health insurance market.

“If the Affordable Care Act is repealed without a replacement, the damage to the country’s individual insurance market will begin this spring. If health insurance companies don’t know what the market will look like going forward, many will either raise prices or drop out. That means more Americans won’t be able to afford coverage, and others won’t be able to find it at all,” she will way, according to her prepared remarks. “Governors of both parties have said that repeal and delay would create unacceptable uncertainty for their state budgets, and their states’ economies. Meanwhile, some rural or community hospitals will have to shrink or even shut down if they can’t count on funding through Medicaid.”

In a question and answer session after her speech on Monday afternoon, Burwell noted that Republicans have not presented “a real proposal for replacement.” She also questioned why Republicans are considering repealing Obamacare but delaying enacting a replacement.

“Why do you want to repeal it without telling what we’re going to do? I know it’s hard,” Burwell said. “But that’s not what we owe the American people.”

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