Health Law Daily What will a Trump presidency mean for health care?
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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What will a Trump presidency mean for health care?

By Kathryn S. Beard, J.D.

On January 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump (R) will be sworn in as the president of the United States; the Republican Party will retain its majority in both the House of Representatives and Senate, but will fall short of the 60-member Senate majority required to break a filibuster. President-elect Trump campaigned on the promise to repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148), President Obama’s signature health care reform law. Trump’s presidency, along with the Republican-controlled Congress, may lead to big changes for Medicare, Medicaid, health care coverage, and federal food safety regulations.

Trump’s health reform plan. In a position paper, Trump laid out his plan for health care, which will include:

  1. complete repeal of the ACA;
  2. permitting the sale of health insurance across state lines;
  3. allowing individuals to fully deduct health insurance premium payments from tax returns;
  4. enabling all Americans to make tax-free contributions to health savings accounts (HSAs);
  5. requiring price transparency from all health care providers;
  6. changing the Medicaid structure from a federal-state partnership to a block-grant system;
  7. removing barriers to free-market entry for drug providers; and
  8. reforming mental health programs and institutions.

The plan also calls for obtaining health care savings by enforcing immigration laws and increasing the employment rate to decrease enrollment in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Most of these proposals are similar to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis) plan for replacing the ACA (see Ryan proposes ‘A Better Way’ to repeal Obamacare, June 29, 2016).

Without a supermajority in the Senate, the Trump Administration could potentially face a filibuster on its health care plans; that obstacle, however, may be overcome by use of the reconciliation process. Earlier this year, H.R. 3762—a bill repealing the ACA’s coverage subsidies, tax credits, Medicaid expansion provisions, individual and employer mandate penalties, and the medical device and health insurance taxes—made it to Obama’s desk before being vetoed (see Bill to repeal portions of the ACA heads to the President’s desk, Obama veto imminent, January 13, 2016; Message in a veto: President says ACA stays put, January 13, 2016).

Effects of Trump plan on uninsurance rate and federal spending. Under the ACA, the uninsurance rate in the U.S. has dropped to 8.6 percent, the lowest level on record (see White House celebrates ACA, Republicans refuse to join party, October 26, 2016). The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that 22 million people would lose health insurance if H.R. 3762 became law (see Senate’s ACA repeal would reduce deficits by $474B, December 16, 2015). In a different report, the CBO found that repealing the ACA would first increase the federal deficit, but later begin to reduce the deficit while leaving individuals with higher premium costs (see Can health care spending be reduced while improving effectiveness?, September 28, 2016). Similarly, Ryan’s "A Better Way" plan is estimated to reduce overall insurance coverage from ACA projections while decreasing the deficit (see ‘A Better Way’ would lead to quick gains but lower overall insurance coverage, August 31, 2016).

The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget analyzed Trump’s plan and determined that if it were implemented, the uninsurance rate would double; it also found that the Medicaid block-grant proposal lacked sufficient detail to estimate whether it would maintain current spending levels or save hundreds of billions of dollars.

Other health issues. With regard to other health-related issues, Trump’s proposals do not include many details. He did, however, campaign on the following:

  • Medicare. Trump pledged to "save Social Security and Medicare without cuts" in multiple advertisements and speeches. The GOP 2016 platform, however, calls for privatizing Medicare through a premium-support model. Trump also endorsed giving HHS the authority to negotiate prescription drug prices.
  • Veterans’ health. In his policies on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Trump laid out plans to allow veterans to choose between receiving health services at the VA or through a private provider of their own choice. He also seeks to increase the number of available mental health care providers, and allow veterans to obtain mental health services outside of the VA.
  • FDA regulations. Many of Trump’s proposals include decreasing the number and scope of federal regulations. In a fact sheet that was later removed from his website, Trump called for rolling back many FDA regulations related to food safety; later pages related to regulations did not mention the FDA.

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