‘Healthcare challenge is not dead’

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Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price indicated Tuesday that the Trump administration still believes Congress should act on healthcare.

“The healthcare challenge across this nation is not dead,” Price said. “What we believe needs to occur is that the Congress needs to address the issue in a way that allows individuals to gain the kind of access to care and coverage that they need.”

Republicans in Congress failed in late July to pass a healthcare bill that would repeal and replace portions of Obamacare. Though the administration pressed them to continue the effort, Senate leaders have said they are prepared to move on to other priorities. They are expected to hold bipartisan hearings in September aimed at stabilizing the exchanges where people can buy tax-subsidized coverage, but divisions already have emerged over which approaches might receive bipartisan support.

Price made the statements after conducting a press briefing in Bedminster, N.J., on the opioid epidemic. When he was finished with his remarks, reporters asked him about planned cuts to Medicaid in the Senate healthcare bill, which advocates have decried as counterproductive to tackling the opioid epidemic.

“Nobody is interested in cutting Medicaid,” Price said. “The fact of the matter is that the president’s budget and the proposals that were before Congress were an effort to try to secure and make a Medicaid system work for patients. That’s the goal we had.”

One version of the Senate healthcare bill aimed to tie the growth in Medicaid spending to the standard rate of inflation, rather than to medical inflation, which is higher. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the change, which would be scheduled to go into effect in 2025, would result in cuts to the program of $770 billion over a decade. The plan also would have rolled back Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, which covered low-income people, beginning in 2021.

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‘Healthcare challenge is not dead’

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