The Slatest

Tom Price, Somewhat Belatedly, Starts Telling the Truth About Obamacare

Tom Price.
Tom Price. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

It took longer than expected, but disgraced former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price appears to have been welcomed back into polite society. Untethered from the political concerns that dictated what he could say either as a congressman or Cabinet member, Price is now able to tell certain truths about health care policy—though, in telling them now, he only confirms his own dishonesty about them when it mattered.

Speaking at the World Health Care Congress on Tuesday morning, Price laid out the consequences of congressional Republicans’ decision to eliminate the individual mandate penalty in last year’s tax reform bill.

“There are many, and I’m one of them, who believes that [removing the mandate] 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,” he said, “and consequently, that drives up the cost for other folks within that market.”

You’ve got to love the “actually” here. Actually, the mandate—an imperfect instrument—was put into the Affordable Care Act for a policy purpose. Democrats didn’t, actually, put the mandate into the bill because they found it politically wise to irritate constituents for the sport of it, actually. No, really. They actually did it to achieve balanced risk pools. And now that it’s gone, it will actually upset the balance of risk pools and increase premiums. This is an actual thing.

Price’s point about the mandate is actually the opposite of what he said in his capacity as the administration’s point person on health care reform during negotiations over the bill last year.

“The individual mandate is actually one of those things that is driving up the cost for the American people in terms of coverage,” Price said in a July 2017 interview on ABC’s This Week shortly after the dramatic failure of health care reform on the Senate floor.

With legislative repeal-and-replace seemingly dead, Price was considering what administrative relief he could bring to health care markets, and an expansion of individual mandate waivers was high on the list. He didn’t get very far. In September, he resigned under scrutiny for chartering fancy planes for lengthy flights between D.C. and Philadelphia. Good to see that he’s landed on his feet.