WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump on Sept. 24 laid out his vision for health care, which focuses on providing “better care, more choice, and lower costs.”
“Under the ‘America First’ health care plan, we will ensure the highest standard of care anywhere in the world,” Trump said during remarks on his health care policies in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“My plan expands affordable insurance options, reduces the cost of prescription drugs, will end surprise medical billing, increases fairness through price transparency, streamlines bureaucracy, accelerates innovation, strongly protects Medicare, and always protect patients with preexisting conditions.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar earlier announced that Trump would sign several executive orders to address concerns about preexisting conditions and surprise medical bills.
“The president is declaring that it is the policy of the United States to provide protections to ensure that Americans with preexisting conditions are protected, regardless of whether the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional and its protections for pre-existing conditions invalidated,” he said during a press call on Sept. 24.
Azar said that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare and signed into law by President Barack Obama, failed to serve U.S. patients with preexisting conditions.
“They may have the ability to purchase a plan, but it may be utterly unaffordable, given that premiums more than doubled in the four years following the ACA implementation,” he said.
“If the Supreme Court strikes out all or a large part of the Affordable Care Act, what the president is making clear in this executive order is that it is the policy of the United States that people who suffer from preexisting conditions will be protected.”
In an executive order, Trump also is taking action to protect patients against surprise medical bills. He would direct Azar to work with Congress to get surprise medical bills legislation passed by Congress.
If Congress fails to pass legislation by Jan. 1, 2021, Azar said the administration would consider executive and regulatory actions to address the problem. He declined to comment about the details of the actions.
“What the president is saying is that all the relevant players—hospitals, doctors, insurance companies—had better get their act together and get legislation passed through Congress that protects patients against surprise medical bills from anybody: hospitals or doctors, doesn’t matter,” he said.
Trump signed executive orders this summer aimed to lower drug prices. Azar said drug price inflation has been flat since the president launched his blueprint in 2018.
The administration has also mandated that hospitals must provide patients with transparent information on health care prices.
“Starting January 2021, any American who needs a hospital service will be able to learn what it will cost them before they receive the service,” Azar said.
According to Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Trump’s “America First” plan would empower patients rather than bureaucrats, drug companies, health insurers, and monopolies.
“Seniors’ premiums have gone down by 34 percent since 2017, a 14 year low,” she said during the call. “In some parts of the country premiums have gone down by as much as 50 percent. Premiums for Part D, Medicare prescription drug benefits have decreased by 12 percent since 2017.”
“No president has ever achieved this level of price reduction,” she said.
The president’s executive orders come as he moves to nominate a replacement for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. If Trump is able to fill the court vacancy, the survival of the ACA will be at risk, as the law—or large sections of it—is more likely to be struck down.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accused Trump of filling the seat in a hurry to overturn Obamacare.
“What they’re saying is, we have to put somebody there—they’ll never replace Justice Ginsburg—we have to fill that seat, so that we can overturn the Affordable Care Act,” she said during a press conference on Sept. 24.
“People have to know why this matters to them in their lives. If you have a preexisting condition, of which 150 million families in America do, say goodbye to the benefit,” she said.