The following editorial is from the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
As U.S. Senate Republicans finalize their health care reform bill, a key member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet is making a deceptive argument to gin up support for the legislation. The misleading statistics that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is wielding – and just as important, the information he leaves out – reflect poorly on his leadership and the credibility of the agency he leads.
Price, a doctor and former Republican congressman from Georgia, took to the same social media platform favored by Trump – Twitter – to argue his case. On his personal, verified agency account, Price last Friday blasted out a disingenuous infographic to his nearly 40,000 followers.
The key point it made: That former President Barack Obama’s health reform law left 28.2 million Americans uninsured. According to Price, that’s “28.2 million promises broken.”
The 28 million uninsured figure is accurate. Obamacare did not reduce the uninsured rate to zero, though it has dropped the nation’s uninsured rate among nonelderly adults to the lowest point in decades. Still, this is a bizarre statistical beachhead from which to champion either of the Republican plans Congress is currently weighing.
Price implies that either GOP plan will be an improvement over Obamacare when it comes to covering more Americans. But the reality is that both Republican proposals would take the nation backward. The bills would not reduce the 28 million people uninsured. Instead, they would add millions more Americans to the uninsured ranks.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has done everything short of printing this critical point in red ink in its reports in order to drive this home to policymakers. The CBO has done multiple analyses of dueling congressional plans. It compared each plan to the Obama law.
The agency concluded that the House version would result in 23 million fewer Americans covered compared with Obamacare over the next decade. “In 2026, an estimated 51 million people under age 65 would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law,” the CBO said.
The Senate bill only mildly improves upon that. It would cover 22 million fewer Americans in the same time frame, according to the CBO analysis. To be clear, a total of 50 million Americans would not have insurance in 2026, compared with 28 million if the Obama law were left in place.
Price’s dubious tweet also neglects to point out another important fact: Many states with Republican governors chose not to expand Medicaid – the public medical assistance program for the poor – despite additional dollars to do so provided by the Obama law. Had all states expanded the program, the 28 million uninsured figure Price cites would be much lower.
HHS officials did not respond to an editorial writer’s request for comment on Price’s misleading communication. As a former orthopedic surgeon, Price certainly would not have left out vital information from medical studies as he advised patients on treatment options. It’s deeply disappointing he did so in the nation’s top health care job.
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