What would happen if Congress does nothing?
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Susan Collins shone a spotlight on an often overlooked aspect of the current health care debate during this morning’s Senate confirmation hearing for U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) nominee, Dr. Tom Price.
“Many of us have expressed concern about what would happen to the millions of Americans who are in the individual market of the ACA on the exchanges. But there has been remarkably little debate on what would happen if Congress took no action with regard to the individual market,” Senator Collins said to Dr. Price. “Could you give us your answer as far as what you would see happening to the individual market if we do nothing?”
In response, Dr. Price stated that, “The American people know this. They appreciate that the individual and small group market, where many of the millions gained their coverage, is breaking in many ways. We're in a downward spiral on being able to provide individuals the opportunity -- any opportunity at all.”
He continued, noting that “One-third of counties have just one insurance provider. There are five states that have only one insurance provider. The premiums are going up for folks. The deductibles. I get calls weekly from my former fellow physicians who tell me their patients are making decisions about not getting the kind of care they need because they can't afford the deductible…People are denying themselves the kind of care they need. Those are the things we ought to be addressing. Again, I hope in a bipartisan way we are able to do that.”
Senator Collins agreed that maintaining the status quo is simply not a viable option and enumerated the many serious problems with the current law.
“I think that it's very important to clarify that in the individual market we are seeing double digit increases in premiums, higher deductibles, larger co-pays and far fewer choices as more and more insurers give up and flee the market. The co-ops have failed dramatically,” said Senator Collins. “So for us to say everything is going well with Obamacare is just not accurate. That is why I feel we do need to fix the flaws of what is a well-intentioned but deeply problematic law.”
Senator Collins asked Dr. Price to clarify his goal for reforming the Affordable Care Act to address these flaws and take action to address the current downward spiral. “It is my understanding that your goal is to quickly pass a reform package that would provide access to affordable health insurance for all Americans with more choices than we have now,” said Senator Collins. “Is that accurate?”
“Absolutely. It is vital.” Dr. Price responded. “I believe it's important we work together to put forward a system that allows every single American to have the opportunity to purchase the coverage they think is best for themselves and their families.”
Next Monday, Senator Collins, alongside Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), will introduce an ACA replacement plan that would help accomplish this objective. This plan, titled The Patient Freedom Act of 2017, would increase choice, lower health care costs, and expand access to affordable health care.
Today’s hearing took place in Washington, D.C., before the Senate, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Senator Collins is a member of the Committee.
Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ Q&A with Rep. Price