President Trump's former top health official on Tuesday said the Republican tax law would raise the cost of health insurance for some Americans because it repealed a core provision of the Affordable Care Act.
“There are many, and I’m 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 within that market,” Price said at the World Health Care Conference in Washington.
The remarks received widespread attention, and on Wednesday, Price changed his message, saying in a statement that repealing the mandate was "exactly the right thing to do."
“The only fair and effective way to bring down healthcare costs is to allow markets to create more choices for consumers and small businesses,” Price said in a statement to Politico. “The only fair and effective way to bring down healthcare costs is to allow markets to create more choices for consumers and small businesses.”
Price's Tuesday comments are in line with predictions from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which in November projected 13 million fewer Americans would have health insurance by 2027 as a result of the elimination of the individual mandate. The CBO also said average premiums in the exchanges would increase by about 10 percent in most years over the next decade, compared with a scenario in which the mandate had been left in place.
“Those effects would occur mainly because healthier people would be less likely to obtain insurance and because, especially in the nongroup market, the resulting increases in premiums would cause more people to not purchase insurance,” the CBO said at the time.
Democrats cited the CBO's projections in making their case against the tax law last fall, and they quickly seized on Price's remarks Tuesday. Republicans, including Price, have long maintained that the mandate represented a burden on taxpayers that forced them into coverage they did not want or need.
“The individual mandate is one of those things that is actually driving up the cost for the American people in terms of coverage,” Price said on ABC’s “This Week” last summer. “So what we’re trying to do is make it so that Obamacare is no longer harming the patients of this land — no longer driving up costs, no longer making it so that they’ve got coverage but no care.”
Price's comments follow a recent criticism of the tax law from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who told the Economist he was unconvinced the law's corporate cuts would significantly raise wages for American workers. During the debate over the law, White House officials repeatedly said the corporate cuts would increase average wages by $4,000 per worker.