Tom Price: Individual Mandate Repeal Will ‘Harm’ Insurance Exchanges

on September 28, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America

Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, now safely out of power, said Tuesday that Republicans’ repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate will “harm” the individual insurance marketplace.

“That may help, but it still is nibbling at the side,” Price told this year’s World Heath Care Congress in Washington, D.C., according to audio of Price’s speech shared with TPM by event organizers. The Washington Times first reported Price’s remarks. 

“And there are many, and I’m one of them, who believes that that actually will harm the pool in the exchange market, because you’ll likely have individuals that are younger and healthier not participating in that market, and consequently, that drives up the cost for other folks within that market,” he added.

Price is making a mundane point to most health care policy experts: If, beginning in 2019, individuals on the non-group market are allowed to avoid choosing between paying for insurance or paying a penalty, many healthy people will simply drop their insurance. As a result, prices for individuals remaining in Obamacare’s individual insurance marketplaces will go up. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2016, and again in 2017, that repealing the individual mandate would increase the number of uninsured people in the United States.

Yet when held a powerful position in the federal government, as secretary of Health and Human Services, Price was noncommittal on the future of the individual mandate and its policy value.

“What about the individual mandate?” ABC’s “This Week” host Martha Raddatz asked Price in July 2017. “Is the President considering directing his agencies not to enforce it? Have you ruled that out?”

“The individual mandate is one of those things that actually is driving up the cost for the American people in terms of coverage,” Price responded. “So what we’re trying to do is make it so Obamacare is no longer harming the patients of this land.”

“All things are on the table to try to help patients,” he added.

Listen to a recording of Price’s speech, provided to TPM by the World Heath Care Congress, below. His comments on the individual mandate begin around eight minutes in.

This post has been updated.

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