But Price also presented a radically different version from the Obama administration when it comes to the role the federal government should play in healthcare. The testimony suggests that the medical device industry may have to prepare for another major overhaul of the U.S. healthcare industry, only seven years after the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
Repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would leave 18 million Americans without health insurance within a year, and at least 32 million could lose health insurance by 2026 if there is no feasible replacement, according to a recent Congressional Budget Office study.
Price said that states know their population better than the national government, and therefore, states should be in charge of healthcare provisions.
“The last thing we want to do is go from a Democrat healthcare system to a Republican healthcare system. Our goal would be to go from a Democrat healthcare system to an American healthcare system that recognizes the needs of all,” Price said.
Throughout the nomination hearing, Price was adamant on assuring the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that the healthcare replacement would be affordable and accessible for everyone and would be of the highest quality. He said the new system would be responsive to patients’ needs and provide insurance choices.
He maintained that an ACA replacement would offer the opportunity to have coverage, though no guarantee, and that all Americans deserved “access” to affordable healthcare.
“I have access to buying a $10 million home. I don’t have the money to do that,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt.).
Senators also questioned Price about how an ACA replacement would handle pre-existing conditions. The ACA presently makes insurance companies insure people, regardless of whether they have pre-existing conditions or not. Price’s plan offers some pre-existing conditions protections, but takes away dependent coverage for about 5.7 million young adults on their parents’ health plans.
Price was also very adamant about making sure children with pre-existing conditions, like cancer, would have the care that they need. He offers a goal of a “system that works for patients” as a replacement for the ACA.
Price also mentioned that he wants to “improve the health, safety and well-being of the American people.”
“I have a passion for public service and a passion for people,” Price said.
Under current ACA guidelines, victims of domestic abuse are considered Americans with pre-existing conditions in some states. The ACA also makes insurance companies cover substance abuse treatment. Price’s previous proposals do not appear to have protected such groups from insurance price hikes. With the present opioid epidemic in the U.S., this could be problematic. Price said that he is committed to making certain that any proposed healthcare reforms will address the needs to find funds for substance abuse patients who need coverage to get better.
“I am very frightened about what you are going to do, and so are millions of Americans,” said Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). “I see you as someone who is there for the doctor, and this is not going to create access to all Americans when you talk about the empowering of patients.”
Price did not immediately rule out any cuts to Medicare and Medicaid with his healthcare reform goals. He said that Medicaid is “imperative and vital” for our population and that we must ensure that it gets to stay. However, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), asked directly if Price will support cutting Medicare or Medicaid funding, Price was unable to provide assurance that a “single dollar of cuts” will not be made to their eligibility or benefits.
“You might want to print out President-elect Trump’s statement, ‘I am not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid,’ and post that above your desk in your new office because Americans will be watching to make sure you follow through on that promise,” Warren said.
Democrats have also called for a SEC investigation into Price because of his stock trades and “hypocritic oaths” he has taken.
Price has investments in the Australian biotech company, Innate Immunotherapeutics, which he purchased at discounted prices. He holds almost $300,000 in health-related stocks. In the early 1990s, Price also invested in six pharmaceutical companies that were going to be harmed by Medicare Demonstration Projects. Not too long after those investments, he became a leader for the Demonstration Project.
“I believe it’s inappropriate, and we need answers to this about whether you and [Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y.] used your access to nonpublic information at prices that were not available to the public,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash).
Franken also mentioned Price’s investment of stock in one of the world’s largest hip and knee implant manufacturers, Zimmer Biomet, a couple of days before legislation was introduced that benefited Zimmer Biomet.
Price has denied having insider information for stock investments.
Sen. Christopher Murray, (D-Conn.), said that it just seems as though Price is more interested in increasing his own personal wealth.
Price will also appear before the Senate Finance Committee, which will vote on Price’s nomination before a full Senate vote.
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