Tom Price Wants Individual Health Insurance For All, That's Not Universal Health Insurance
Two days before the U.S. presidential inauguration, Senator Bernie Sanders asked Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) nominee, Tom Price, "do you believe that health care is a right of all Americans, whether they are rich or they're poor." Like any worthy opponent, Price would not give a "yes" or "no" answer. Instead, he said, "I look forward to working with you to make certain that every single American has access to the highest quality care that is possible.” Here's how I interpret Price's cold reply:
Americans that can afford to pay for the highest quality health care shall have access to it. Americans that cannot afford the highest quality care shall have access to the level of care what little money they have can provide. A doctor is advocating for levels of care based on ability to pay. Shocker. But not all doctors are like Tom.
Tom Price has an estimated net worth of over $13 million. His HHS nomination hearing is as much about corruption as it is about policy. There are allegations that he purchased health care stocks based on insider information and introduced legislation favorable to a company whose stock he owned. Price claims his stock purchases were legal, and that may be true, but his lack of propriety in making these purchases and their timing, is unsettling but not surprising.
Price's careers as a doctor, State Senator and U.S. Congressman have a common theme—oppose any and all legislation that threatens the paychecks of doctors. He opposed single payer health insurance long before Obamacare when he mobilized other doctors to lobby against Hillarycare. And he has a history of trying to limit, sometimes drastically, the amount patients can receive in malpractice lawsuits. With so much time and effort devoted to pursuing and sustaining wealth for doctors, the confirmation hearing may be uncomfortable, but Tom's been doing this for a long time, and he has an answer for everything.
Tom Wants A Health Care System Made Up Of Individuals
As an entrepreneur with a medical degree whose main purpose in life is to stay rich, we can expect Tom Price to oppose legislation to limit what doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical and medical device companies can charge for their services and products. For Tom, health care is a commodity, not a right of all Americans. Other things not to get your hopes up about with a Price-led HHS department:
- meaningful health care price transparency
- limits on out-of-pocket health care cost for patients
- the prohibition against balance billing
What you can expect if Tom Price heads HHS he has clearly stated in his health care reform proposal, the Empowering Patients First Act. The Act is Price's Obamacare alternative, and it offers the smallest possible tax-incentives to encourage people to purchase individual health insurance.
The Empowering Patients First Act includes the usual suspects from all Republican reform plans: repeal Obamacare, abortion funding restrictions, enhanced health savings accounts, refundable tax credits to pay insurance premiums and coverage for preexisting conditions with limitations.
But Tom's ideas on health care reform don't stop there. What he wants is for every individual, be they on Medicare, Medicaid, Veteran's coverage, a federal employee benefit health plan, private employer plan or private individual plan, to opt out of these plans and receive a tax credit to purchase individual insurance. And if they don't opt out, he will propose drastically changing these programs, using the tax code and other means, to force people out of them and into buying their own coverage.
This is the access to health coverage at the lowest possible cost Tom referred to in his nomination hearing. Stingy tax subsidies that don't cover a quarter of the cost of the average health insurance plan. But wait, there's more. You can buy individual plans based on your health status with your crappy tax subsidy. If you are young and healthy, use your pathetic subsidy to buy a lousy health plan that won't protect you if get really sick during the year. And if you are old and sick, you are going to have to pony up a lot of your own money for a decent health plan. Still, Tom meets his goal of access to health care at the lowest possible cost for everyone.