A former top ranking government official had this to say about the recent repeal of Obamacare’s controversial individual mandate requiring most Americans to carry health insurance or pay a tax penalty on Tuesday: “There are many, and I am one of them, who believes that that actually will harm the pool in the exchange market because you’ll likely have individuals who are younger and healthier not participating in that market. And, consequently, that drives up the cost for other folks in that market.”
But the speaker wasn’t some Obama administration veteran lashing out at the individual mandate repeal (which was tucked into the massive tax law passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump last year), a critical component of the health law. It was Trump’s own recent, former Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price, a longtime Obamacare foe with a history of scorching criticism about the individual mandate.
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Price was speaking at the World Health Care Congress conference in Washington, D.C. when he delivered the surprising remarks. It’s a sharp contrast to what he’s said before about the individual mandate, including during his short-lived tenure as HHS Secretary (which was cut short following a scandal over Price’s lavish air travel proclivities).
“Well, the individual mandate is one of those things that actually is driving up the cost for the American people in terms of coverage,” Price told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz in an interview last July. “So what we’re trying to do is make it so Obamacare is no longer harming the patients of this land. No longer driving up costs. No longer making it so they’ve got coverage, but no care. And the individual mandate is one of those things.” Price had made numerous similar arguments prior to that interview and used his time leading HHS to weaken enforcement of Obamacare’s individual mandate through his administrative powers.
It’s unclear what exactly fostered this change of heart by the former HHS Secretary. But independent organizations like the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) agree with Price’s newfound assessment, projecting that the mandate repeal will ultimately cause 13 million people to lose health coverage and premium spikes of about 10% relative to current law.