Rep. Tom Price, who is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, countered Democrats’ claims about the consequences of repealing Obamacare, telling senators that “nobody’s interested in pulling the rug out from under anybody.”
Price, R-Ga., appeared Wednesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in a courtesy hearing where he fielded questions on his plans for the health care system once Congress repeals Obamacare.
“The last thing we want to do is go from a Democratic health care system to a Republican health care system,” Price said early on. “We want to go to an American health care system that recognizes the needs of all.”
On Tuesday, four days after Trump is sworn in, Price will go before the Senate Finance Committee, which will vote on confirming his nomination.
As secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, Price would be responsible for overseeing repeal of the health care law and implementing its replacement—a plan congressional Republicans have yet to unveil.
Congress took a crucial step toward repealing Obamacare last week, but Democrats and some Republicans raised concerns about the repeal process, especially regarding Americans who gained health coverage under the law.
Price, a former chairman of the House Budget Committee, signaled to committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., that the law would be repealed piece by piece, but stressed he didn’t want to pull “the rug out from under anybody.”
“I think there’s been a lot of talk about individuals losing health coverage,” Price told the committee. “That is not our goal, nor is it our desire nor is it our plan.”
Among concerns expressed by Senate Democrats was whether Americans with pre-existing conditions would be able to purchase coverage once Obamacare is repealed.
Price offered few details on the replacement plan the Trump administration will put forth. But his own proposal requires insurers to provide coverage to consumers with pre-existing conditions if the individual has had coverage for at least 18 months.
Price’s proposal also calls for creation of high-risk pools, designed to help those with pre-existing conditions find affordable insurance. The Georgia Republican reiterated his support for that before the Senate panel.
Trump, in an interview published Sunday, told The Washington Post his replacement plan would provide “insurance for everybody.” The president-elect walked back his comment, however, in an interview Tuesday with Axios.
When asked about Trump’s comments, Price said he shared the president-elect’s goal of providing “insurance for everybody,” but focused specifically on expanding access.
“What I’m committed to is making sure every single American has access to coverage they want and making sure Americans can purchase that coverage,” he said.
Price also fielded questions from Democrats about his stock trades involving health care companies over the past four years.
Senate Democrats, some of whom also own health care stock, alleged that Price unethically traded certain stocks. Price maintained that he had no knowledge of the stocks purchased, since a broker manages his investment portfolio.