HHS Secretary poses 3 questions for GOP on ACA replacement

Burwell stated the law is like a 'game of Jenga'

Dive Brief:

  • HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in a National Press Club event Monday Republicans should answer three fundamental questions about their ACA replacement coverage plan: Does it expand healthcare access to as many people? Does it maintain quality? Will it bend the cost curve in the right direction?
  • Republicans plan to repeal the ACA after taking control of both Congress and the White House and could delay a replacement for up to three years. Such a strategy would have "stark" consequences, such as increased prices to consumers, less competition among insurers in the marketplace, and uncertainty for state budgets and economies, according to Burwell. 
  • The damage to the individual insurance market would begin this spring, she said, noting the individual mandate is a fundamental part of the concept of health coverage under the ACA. 

Dive Insight:

From leading hospital groups to federal healthcare officials, many have voiced their concerns with Republicans' plans to repeal parts of the ACA, which is said to begin this month, and delay replacement coverage. Several new reports on this strategy have shown it could lead to massive job losses, cause millions of Americans to lose their insurance coverage, and cost the healthcare system and hospitals billions of dollars

Burwell's speech is the latest in the Democrat's message touting the ACA and pushing back against the "repeal and delay" strategy. Last week, President Barack Obama wrote an article in NEJM in which he called the strategy "reckless" and "irresponsible."

The repeal process will reportedly begin this month, though Burwell has warned about dire consequences at least twice. ​While the administration has acknowledged the healthcare law can be improved, Burwell compared the ACA to a "game of Jenga" in her recent remarks in which a piece might look okay to be pulled out but "the tower will fall because it's related." She previously argued the ACA is “now woven into the fabric of our nation.”

Republicans are moving forward by making healthcare reform a top priority. Even though Republicans have argued the ACA is deeply flawed ever since its implementation in 2010, the administration has never seen a "scorable" plan for replacement coverage, according to Burwell. This may change sometime this week, as a tweet from Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) suggests: 

However, Paul believes the repeal process should be delayed to prevent an increase in the federal deficit and has said the President-elect supports his position. Five other GOP senators introduced an amendment in the Senate Monday night that would extend the deadline for a repeal bill to be created from the original deadline of January 27 to March 3, Business Insider reports. "By extending the deadline for budget reconciliation instructions until March, Congress and the incoming administration will each have additional time to get the policy right," Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said in a statement.

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Filed Under: Payer Health Law Policy & Regulation
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