HR Administration

Senate Confirms Tom Price as HHS Secretary

By Andie Burjek

Feb. 10, 2017

In a 52-47 party-line vote, the Senate confirmed Tom Price as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Friday morning, Feb. 10.

Price strongly opposes the Affordable Care Act. While Senate Republicans believe he will bring stability to American health care markets, the Senate Democrats think he will weaken federal entitlement programs like the ACA, Medicare and Medicaid, according to the Washington Post.

There’s a lot to look forward to with the new HHS secretary, according Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health, a nonprofit that represents the large employer’s perspective on national health policy issues. He’s hopeful that the Trump administration will see the country toward a more effective, more efficient health care delivery system, he added.

“We do hope that the new administration and HHS will continue the transformation of Medicare away from fee-for-service, which drives unnecessary care and spending, toward paying for value, which improves both the quality and affordability of Medicare and has a positive spillover effect for private plans, including employer plans,” Marcotte said in an email interview.

Although the departments of Labor and Treasury have more direct regulatory authority over employer plans and the workplace, the HHS does have a considerable impact on employer health care benefit plans. The influence Price will have on health care extends to payment and delivery reform and how he prioritizes that as HHS secretary.

“Employer plans have been a source of innovation in health care and health benefits,” he added. “And we look forward to continuing to share best practices and recommendations with HHS and [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services].”

The appointment of Price as HHS secretary further proves that President Donald Trump is serious about rolling out what he promised to do in his first 100 days, including “ripping out the guts of what once was the Affordable Care Act”, said Adam Ochstein, founder and CEO of HR service company StratEx. The company’s clients, many of which are in the restaurant, retail and hospitality industries, were already questioning their responsibilities with the ACA and whether or not they even had to comply.

“I think it’s going to create a lot of uncertainty and doubt in small businesses and a lot of uncertainty and doubt for the underwriters,” said Ochstein. This gives business already uncertain about the ACA a bigger torch to hold onto. If it’s all going away anyway, why should they even bother offering coverage? Also, underwriters may have been willing to go along with the ACA given the employer mandate.  Without the mandate, a lot of them may pull out of the exchanges.

Andie Burjek is a Workforce associate editorComment below, or email at aburjek@humancapitalmedia.com. Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.

Andie Burjek is an associate editor at Workforce.com.

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