HHS general counsel candidate vows to uphold ACA


http://www.healthcaredive.com/news/hhs-general-counsel-candidate-vows-to-uphold-aca/448682/

Dive Brief:

  • During his nomination hearing in front of the Senate Finance Committee, Robert Charrow, who is a candidate for general counsel to the HHS, told senators he will resist changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as long as it is law.
  • Charrow, who is an attorney with the international law firm of Greenberg Traurig, said he is a “firm believer in applying the law as written and passed by Congress. And if an action is inconsistent with the law, I will not approve it.”
  • The hearing, which also included the nominee for HHS assistant secretary for legislative affairs, Matthew Bassett, comes as the Government Accountability Office is looking into the use of official HHS communication channels to promote ACA repeal legislation.

Dive Insight:

While all of the Republican attempts to repeal the ACA have thus far failed, its supporters are still worried about threats, including from President Donald Trump, to sabotage the exchange markets. Trump said he wanted the ACA to “implode” and force senators to the negotiating table.

Charrow’s expressed willingness to defend the ACA could certainly come into play if he is approved. His boss would be HHS Secretary Tom Price, who is a vocal opponent of the ACA. If confirmed, Charrow may need to stand up to both his boss and the president.

The most immediate concern for the ACA is cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to payers, which Trump called a “bailout” for insurance companies. Payers say that without those subsidies they will need to raise rates or leave the ACA market. Because of the uncertainty, some payers have increased rates by more than 20% for 2018, dropped out of the market or cut down on their footprint.

The issue appears to be in limbo for now, with Congress out for its annual summer break and Trump beginning a 17-day vacation.

The Senate Finance Committee didn’t vote on the Charrow’s nomination, but we’ll soon know whether his statements were enough to quell Democratic fears.

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