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Price Has Power to Change the ACA over 1,000 TImes

Posted on August 8th, 2017

We all know that efforts by the Republican party to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have failed up to this point. It’s unknown what healthcare legislation, if any, will ever get through both chambers of Congress and into the hands of President Donald Trump to sign into law. That will remain a mystery for the foreseeable future, but passing a law isn’t the only way the ACA can be altered. There is also regulatory action that can occur. 
 
The phrases “The Secretary shall…” or “The Secretary may…” are referenced in the context of the ACA 1,442 different times. This so-called Secretary is the head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Tom Price. These citations give Price the power to define or interpret how certain ACA provisions should be implemented, and surely Price will do things differently than previous HHS Secretaries who were appointed under the Obama administration. 
 
Price has been a long-time opponent of the ACA, and he even introduced his own version of a repeal bill back in 2015 when he was a Senator. Price has also gone on record to say that he plans to review each and every provision that he can change. 
 
Changes through regulatory action have already started. The enforcement of the Individual Mandate was eased earlier this year when an announcement was made that tax returns would be accepted without insurance status included. Additionally, the upcoming open enrollment period in the individual market was shortened to a 45-day period, and stricter enforcement of special enrollment periods are now under way. 
 
Price may next try to ease requirements on employers. Under the Obama administration, regulatory action delayed the Employer Mandate and then phased in the requirements over a two-year period. There have also been some suggestions that Price will reevaluate whether prescribed contraceptives must be covered as a no-cost preventive benefit for women.
 
We may still be in store for a slew of changes even though Congressional efforts to repeal and replace the ACA have not been successful thus far. It seems that regulatory change is not a matter of if it will occur, but it’s a matter of what will occur and when it will happen.