July 30, 2017

Sunday School 7/30/17

I only had time for one classroom today, so I stopped in to see what was going on at NBC with Meet the Press, hosted by Chuck Todd.

HHS Secretary Tom Price was on, as was Maine's Senator Susan Collins, on of the three 'no' votes on the failed Skinny Repeal measure that, at least for now, ground discussion on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act to a halt.

Price parroted the same old, same old stuff we've been hearing from the Republicans since even before the ACA was passed. Here he is answering Chuck Todd's question on what he could have done differently
Well I think what the president has explained and punctuates is his seriousness about this issue and his passion for turning the healthcare system in a direction that puts patients first, not government and not insurance companies. We've all got a lot of work to do. We've continued to work with the members of the United States Senate. We look forward to continuing to work with them, and our house partners as well, to make certain that we move this healthcare system in that better direction, where patients and families and doctors are in charge, not Washington DC.
Here's a question, frankly, I didn't expect to see asked:
Do you feel it is your job at HHS to implement the affordable care act as it was meant to be or are you there to--some people think you don't want to see it work, so that's why we've seen cancelled TV advertising, the attempts to not get people to enroll, the cancelling of contracts that help with enrollment. And so some have accused that you do not want to see it work as it was intended. Can you explain?
Here's Price's answer:
Yea, no, our job is to follow the law of the land and we take that mission very, very seriously. And the role of the health and human services department is to improve the health, the safety and the wellbeing of the American people. And what we understand, what the American people understand is that their health and wellbeing is being harmed right now by the current law. And so our goal is to make--is to put in place, as well as the president's goal, is to put in place a law, a system, that actually works for patients. You can't do that under the current structure. You can't do that just with regulation. It requires an act of congress and that's why the president has been so passionate about making certain that the, that the congress of the United States repeals and replaces Obamacare. 
Todd pressed him again, asking
So if they come up with a fix that helps, essentially gives some certainty to the insurance companies to go into rural markets, are you then going to implement the affordable care act as it was meant to be, including encouraging people to sign up, encouraging enrollment, encouraging Medicaid expansion? 
Price's answer, again, was nonsense.
Well, our, as I said, our responsibility is to follow the law and again we take that responsibility very seriously and we will continue to do so. But remember that the current law right now is failing the American people... You've got premiums that are up, deductibles that are up, people having that insurance card and no care, got insurers fleeing the market. 83 insurance companies fled the health insurance market last year. That's before this administration came in. This system is imploding upon itself and that's what we're trying to care of. That's what the president has said. That's why we need repeal and replace. 
So, there you have it: the Secretary of HHS is admitting that his department, responsible for the Affordable Care Act, is pretty much going to continue ignoring the law because they don't like it and they think that Americans don't like it either. Glad to have that out in the open.

Susan Collins faced similar questions from Todd, including this one.
Are you confident, though, that Secretary Price at HHS is implementing - is trying to keep this law afloat, that is doing everything he can to create certainty or are you concerned that there are some aspects of HHS implementation right now that are actually undermining the law, attempting to sort of create more problems in order to force Congress to act?
Collins does not express that confidence. 
I’m troubled by the uncertainty that has been created by the administration. When it comes to the subsidies that are given to very low-income people to help them with their co-pays and their deductibles, I hear this described by some as an insurance company bailout. That’s not what it is. It is vital assistance to people who make between 100 and 250 percent of the poverty level and allows them to afford their out-of-pocket costs. And the uncertainty about whether that subsidy is going to continue from month to month is clearly contributing to the destabilization of the insurance markets. And that’s one thing that Congress needs to end. We need to make very clear that that subsidy is important to those very low income people and we need to appropriate the money to ensure that it continues.
Todd then asked if she was ready to tell Mitch McConnell that she'd never be in his corner unless he went to 'regular order' - hearings, testimony, bipartisanship - you know, legislating stuff.
I’ve made very clear that I believe we would produce far better legislation if we went through the normal process of having committee hearings, hearing from health care providers, from insurance regulators, from advocacy groups, from governors, from everyone involved and then produce bipartisan legislation with input from both Democrats and Republicans. That’s how we get the best legislation. And that is the best path forward to fix the very real flaws that Democrats and Republicans alike see in the Affordable Care Act. So that’s the path that I want to take and that means not going through reconciliation, but going through the normal committee processes I’ve been urging all along and as Senator John McCain urged in his very eloquent speech on the senate floor.
One can only hope that Collins, and Lisa Murkowski (the senator from Alaska who was threatened by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke about her vote) are able to actually work on bipartisan solutions to fix the ACA. And when the moderate Republicans come knocking, the Dems better show up with good intentions and work to get something accomplished.