HHS Secretary Tom Price told senators during a hearing Thursday that major cuts to Medicaid and repealing the Affordable Care Act would result in better care for individuals, though he was light on details.
Price testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee about the potential consequences of President Donald Trump's proposed 2018 budget which includes a $12.4 billion cut to HHS' discretionary funding. The budget included a projected $600 billion cut to Medicaid over the next decade.
Although Democrats and policy experts have claimed the cut would set back medical research, coverage programs and drug and device safety, Price maintained the cuts would push HHS to focus on outcomes rather than spending as a measure for success.
"The problem with many of our federal programs is not that they are too expensive or too underfunded," Price said. "The real problem is that they do not work—they fail the very people they are meant to help."
To emphasize his point, Price highlighted the Medicaid program, which he called an outdated, one-size-fits-all program. Converting the program to a per capita cap system as outlined under the American Health Care Act would give states the flexibility to create the coverage program they wish.
"If how much money the government spends on a program were truly a measure of success, Medicaid would be hailed as one of the most successful in history," Price said.
Twenty years ago, annual government spending on Medicaid was less than $200 billion. Within the next decade, that figure is estimated to top $1 trillion, according to Price.
Price continued to evade questions on whether the Trump administration would continue to pay billions in cost-sharing reductions to help people pay for coverage on the marketplaces. He has refused to answer similar questions from lawmakers during previous congressional hearings.
Insurers have exited HealthCare.gov insurance exchanges for the 2018 open enrollment period, citing uncertainty over whether those cost-sharing reimbursements will be paid.
Price said the Trump administration's proposed budget assumes insurers will continue to receive those payments. He added that the funding would continue until a lawsuit by House Republicans over the subsidies is resolved.