President Trump has proven “better at managing” the Affordable Care Act, known widely as Obamacare, than the law’s namesake, the Health and Human Services secretary said in a speech here to group of health care leaders.
Obamacare premiums are expected to drop 2 percent nationally next year, and the total number of insurers on the federal exchange will grow for the first time in four years, Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday in crediting the president for the improving insurance marketplace.
“It turns out, when you have a president who’s willing to take decisive action, who understands business, who’s willing to work with the private sector, you can find a way to help American patients, even within a failed system like the ACA,” he said. “The president who is supposedly trying to sabotage the Affordable Care Act has proven better at managing it than the president who wrote the law.”
The announcement of decreasing national premiums echoes more dramatic improvements in Tennessee, where premiums are dropping as much as 15 percent, and multiple insurers are returning to the marketplace.
On Sept. 21, the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation estimated monthly premiums before applying a tax credit in major cities in 20 states and the District of Columbia for the lowest-cost bronze, second lowest-cost silver, and lowest-cost gold plans that insurers say they will offer on the insurance exchanges for 2019.
The foundation’s researchers found that premiums on the second lowest-cost silver plan for a 40-year-old nonsmoker would decrease in 12 cities, including Nashville. Applying the tax credit for the nonsmoker making $30,000 shows that premiums would increase about 2 percent in all of the cities.
Azar announced the improving national marketplace during a highly-politicized 20-minute speech at Lipscomb University that the Nashville Health Care Council organized. Azar, a former drug company executive whom Trump appointed, spent much of his speech railing against Obamacare, which he described as a failed program built on government overreach.
“The previous administration’s major health-care achievement, the Affordable Care Act, was an attempt to use more government regulation and intervention to improve American health care,” Azar said. “As we all know, the results were a disaster with skyrocketing costs and disappearing choices.”
Azar’s speech drew sharp rebuttal from advocates with Protect Our Care, a Democratic-leaning political group that supports the Affordable Care Act. In a strongly worded statement Thursday afternoon, Chairman Leslie Dach said Azar was Trump’s “latest snake oil salesman,” who was wrongly taking credit for an insurance marketplace that the administration had tried to destroy.
Dach specifically targeted a Trump proposal to introduce new cheaper coverage plans that offer worse coverage than what is required under Obamacare. The administration has described these plans as a low-cost alternative, but critics say the skimpy coverage will undermine the Obamacare marketplace.
“The simple fact is that Trump and Azar’s policies will kick people off their health insurance, allow insurance companies to sell junk insurance policies that discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, charge women and older people higher premiums and kick people off when they get sick,” Dach said. “What’s worse: The GOP’s relentless war on health care has raised health care costs for millions while giving billions in tax breaks to drug and insurance companies.”
In addition to bashing Obamacare, Azar attacked the prospect of Medicare-for-All, an ambitious reform plan for a single, government-run health care program that some far-left Democrats embrace. Azar described Medicare-for-All as an unaffordable pipe dream.
“When we were young, our parents taught us a good lesson: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. That’s not less true in health care than it is anywhere else,” Azar said. “We learned from the Affordable Care Act, and we should remember these lessons before contemplating an ever bigger expansion of government control over healthcare.”
Azar did not take questions from the audience or press after his speech.
Follow Brett Kelman on Twitter: @brettkelman
“There is a reason that #Nashville health care leaders have kept popping up throughout my career. It’s because Nashville has become a thriving hub for #healthcare #innovation,” @SecAzar of @HHSGov at yesterday’s @NashHCC event. Read more: https://t.co/gHWE8GuI0i
— Health Care Council (@NashHCC) September 28, 2018