Azar Lauds New Low-Cost Health Care Plans for ‘Forgotten Men and Women’

Recently confirmed Health and Human Services chief says it makes sense to bring back a temporary insurance coverage program that Obama nixed under Obamacare

An estimated “28 million forgotten men and women” who were “shut out of the Obamacare marketplace” will soon have many more health insurance choices thanks to President Donald Trump’s restoration of low-cost, short-term coverage plans abolished by his predecessor.

“We’re talking about the 28 million forgotten men and women who do not have insurance that were promised affordable insurance,” Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told host Laura Ingraham Tuesday on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle.” The “Angle” interview was the first Azar has done since the Senate confirmed him a month ago.

Azar noted that the “shocking thing is” that the plans “were, in fact, available until October of 2016 during the entirety of the Obama administration’s tenure. Now, we’re bringing them back. [Obama] got rid of them at the end of the administration and said you can only have these plans that were three months.” Under the Trump plan, the coverage can cover a full year.

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The new low-cost plans “don’t have any of the Obamacare restrictions in terms of the mandates from the central government” and are “flexible so people can get lower-cost plans if they choose to,” Azar said.

Trump had demanded that his administration “come up with solutions and options like this for affordable individualized health insurance” as the president and Congress wrestle with repealing and replacing, or reforming the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

“We’re trying to just make options available for folks who’ve been shut out of the marketplace,” Azar said. “Now, we need to keep working to build a different system than Obamacare. But while we have it, we need more affordable options for people to get the insurance they want — not what I tell them they should have.”

Democrats aren’t happy with Trump’s announcement, according to Azar, because they’ve been spreading the myth that “we’re right now living in the land of milk and honey and everything is perfect and nobody is lacking insurance.”

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But Democrats claimed Trump only sought to undermine Obamacare while hurting Americans with pre-existing conditions. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Trump’s “short-term junk health plans” would fail to cover “essential health benefits and can discriminate against Americans with pre-existing conditions.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted Tuesday that “since day one, the Trump administration playbook on health care has been to sabotage marketplaces, jack up costs & premiums, and then offer junk insurance that fails to offer protections for those with pre-existing conditions, coverage of essential health benefits, and more.”

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Azar said the Trump administration is committed to working with Congress “to make a system where people can buy the insurance that they want.” But until then, the administration plans to do everything it can to “help make insurance more affordable” while giving Americans more options “while Obamacare is still in place.”

“We think a couple different groups of people could benefit from this. First, there are people for whom the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare’s individual insurance plans are simply unaffordable,” Azar said, noting that health insurance premiums skyrocketed before the Obama administration concluded.

Related: Competition in Obamacare Markets Declines Again

“So for some of those people, these less expensive plans — often one-third the price of Obamacare plans — might be a good option for them,” Azar said.

For those Americans with pre-existing conditions, Azar suggested that “other options would probably make more sense” for them to pursue.

“But for other individuals, these may be the cheaper options — young people, healthy people — that are already being shut out of the Obamacare marketplace,” Azar said.

PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter.

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PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected].