WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) joined 21 of their Republican Senate colleagues in sending a letter to recently confirmed Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price asking for relief from Obamacare for individuals living in Arkansas and 34 other states.
The letter congratulates the new head of the federal health agency and reads, in part, “We eagerly anticipate working with you to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with sensible solutions that give states more flexibility and Americans more options. However, we recognize that this process will take time, and we implore you to do everything in your power to ensure that these millions of Americans who have been protected from Obamacare do not lose their insurance now.”
President Trump signed an Executive Order on January 20 instructing federal agencies to help ease the burdens of Obamacare as Congress works to repeal the harmful law. Cotton, Boozman, and their colleagues are committed to working with Secretary Price and the President to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, shielding Americans from unbearable costs.
In Arkansas and 34 other states, a transitional period has protected some individuals and small groups from Obamacare and allowed them to keep their health-care plans. However, this protection expires at the end of 2017.
In addition to Boozman and Cotton, the letter was signed by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Roger Wicker (R-MS), John Barrasso (R-WY), Roy Blunt (R-WY), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), John Hoeven (R-ND), James Lankford (R-OK), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Rob Portman (R-OH), Marco Rubio (R-FL) Pat Roberts (R-KS), Jim Risch (R-ID), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Tim Scott (R-SC) and John Thune (R-SD).
The letter reads in full:
Dear Secretary Price,
Congratulations on your confirmation as Secretary of Health and Human Services. We look forward to working with you to ensure access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans. We commend your commitment to repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and working with Congress to enact market-driven approaches that put Americans back in control of their health care.
We appreciate President Trump’s determination to ease the burden of the ACA through his Administration. The President’s January 20, 2017, Executive Order instructing agencies to minimize the harmful impacts of the law and provide states additional flexibility is an admirable first step. As Secretary of HHS, we know that much of this responsibility will fall on your shoulders. One way HHS can protect Americans from the crippling effects of the law is to extend the transitional relief policy for individual and group plans in 35 states. HHS Guidance is needed by mid-February to give states and health plans time to act.
Since the enactment of the ACA, millions of Americans have either lost their health insurance or have seen their premiums skyrocket. We are committed to working with you to ensure this does not continue to happen. In 2013, HHS created a transitional relief policy that would allow individuals and small groups to maintain certain “Grandmothered” insurance plans. In states that opted for transitional relief, Grandmothered plans are individual and small group plans purchased after enactment of the ACA and before October 1, 2013, that were not required to comply with certain ACA reforms. President Obama’s Administration permitted transitional relief for these plans to protect millions of Americans from feeling the worst pains of the law.
The transitional relief policy was extended in March 2014 and again in February 2016. The current extension is set to expire at the end of 2017, causing millions of Americans to lose their Grandmothered plans in 2018. HHS should extend the current transitional relief policy indefinitely, which would give states the opportunity to allow individuals and small groups to maintain plans. This would provide stability, especially as plans to repeal and replace the ACA evolve.
We eagerly anticipate working with you to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with sensible solutions that give states more flexibility and Americans more options. However, we recognize that this process will take time, and we implore you to do everything in your power to ensure that these millions of Americans who have been protected from Obamacare do not lose their insurance now. We respectfully request that HHS issue guidance by February 21, 2017, to extend indefinitely the transitional relief policy until Congress and the President are able to repeal and replace the ACA completely.