Tom Price isn't suddenly a fan of the Affordable Care Act, but he told the World Health Care Conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday that Republican tinkering with the law is driving up health-care costs for consumers. Republicans were unable to muster the votes to repeal ObamaCare last year, despite Price's urging, but their tax overhaul effectively wiped out the individual mandate requiring Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty.
Scrapping the individual mandate is "nibbling at the side," Price said Tuesday, 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 who are younger and healthier not participating in that market, and consequently that drives up the cost for other folks within that market."
That isn't a terribly controversial point — the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected in November that without the individual mandate, 13 million fewer Americans will have health insurance and average premiums will rise by about 10 percent a year in exchange plans. Dave Dillion at the Society of Actuaries projects rates will rise up to 7.5 percent in 2019 because of the mandate's removal, Vox reports, and the Urban Institute says combined with other actions by President Trump, premiums will shoot up by an average of 20 percent nationwide. The Commonwealth Fund reported Tuesday that 4 million fewer Americans have health insurance since Trump took office.
But Price himself has argued otherwise, telling ABC News last summer that "the individual mandate is one of those things that is actually driving up the cost for the American people in terms of coverage." He was pushed out in the fall after Politico detailed his extensive use of costly private jets for official business. Combined with other criticisms of the GOP tax law by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), "Republicans are working over time to prove our points on health care and taxes," said Tyler Law, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.