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Conservative Groups Push HHS Secretary Price to Help Dismantle PPACA

Price urged to wield regulatory powers as senators flounder

Frustrated with Congress’ slow march toward repealing and replacing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), two conservative groups have sent a letter to Dr. Tom Price, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), asking him to take a larger role in dismantling the law through regulation, according to a report from FierceHealthcare.

In the letter, Freedom Partners and Americans for Prosperity urged Price to launch “phase II” of Republicans’ three-pronged strategy for repealing the PPACA. The first phase of the strategy is the passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which narrowly cleared the House and is now being considered by the Senate. The next two phases––providing “regulatory relief” from the PPACA and enacting additional legislation––were meant to follow.

But the effort by GOP senators to reach consensus on their own version of health care reform has been a slow process. The two conservative groups, therefore, have urged Price to step up and wield his regulatory powers.

In their letter, the groups outlined five actions they want the HHS to take that “do not depend on, and should not wait for” passage of the AHCA.

One suggested step would be to ease the PPACA’s “medical loss ratio” rule since, under the current provision, “insurers are forced to either hike insurance premiums to meet the minimum threshold or exit the marketplaces,” said Freedom Partners Vice President of Policy Nathan Nascimento.

The rest of the groups’ suggestions include:

  • Loosening the PPACA’s coverage mandates
  • Offering states more flexibility from PPACA regulations via a waiver program
  • Undoing regulations that limit short-term insurance plans to three months
  • Relaxing the PPACA’s “minimum actuarial value” rule

Under Price, the HHS has already encouraged states to apply for waivers to revamp their Medicaid programs and to establish high-risk pools or reinsurance programs to stabilize their individual marketplaces.

Sources: FierceHealthcare; June 2, 2017; and Freedom Partners Letter; June 2, 2017.

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