Rep. Tom Price, President Donald Trump's nominee to head Health and Human Services, refused on Tuesday to promise that no one would lose their current health coverage as a result of President Donald Trump's executive order to "ease the burden of Obamacare."
The order, issued hours after Trump was sworn in on Friday, was vague, calling on government agencies to act to reverse the effects of the Affordable Care Act. It did not require any specific action.
Price was asked about it at his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday by Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, Politico reports.
"Independent experts say that this is going to destroy the market on which millions of working families buy health coverage," Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden said after the hearing. "And on the questions that I asked — will the congressman commit that nobody will be worse off, nobody will lose coverage — we didn't get an answer."
Republicans on Capitol Hill have said they will not only repeal President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, but also replace it with a better alternative. They have not yet settled on a replacement plan, though GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana have proposed a plan they say would allow states to opt to keep Obamacare or choose the Republican alternative.
Whatever the final Republican plan ends up being, Price told Senators he would make certain people with pre-existing conditions are covered.
"I commit to you that we will not abandon individuals with pre-existing illness or disease," he said, a reversal of his position in 2012, when he told Politico that requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions was "a terrible idea."
On Tuesday, he said, "nobody should be priced out of the market for having a bad diagnosis."
Price also declined to say whether Trump himself has an Obamacare replacement ready, and was asked by Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown whether Trump had lied earlier this month when he said he had a plan almost completed.
"I trust that he said that, yes," Price responded to the question.
Pressed further by Brown, Price said, "I've had conversations with the president about health care."
"I'm still not sure if the president lied," Brown shot back. "It sounds like he did."
But Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, who chairs the committee, slammed Democrats for their attacks on Price.
"None of those who say they oppose Dr. Price's nomination seem to be talking about whether he is qualified," he said. "Instead we've heard grossly exaggerated and distorted attacks on his views and his ethics."
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