In response to a question from a reporter during his press conference discussing the American Health Care Act, House Speaker Paul Ryan claimed that Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price couldn’t disclose his plans to provide regulatory relief from ObamaCare. This regulatory relief is Phase Two in the Speaker’s three-phase plan to reform federal health law. As far as we can tell, no such legal bar exists.
Here’s the exchange:
CNBC Reporter: You’ll need companies onboard to provide the optionality that you’re talking about and almost every industry organization has come out against this. The reason why there isn’t as much participation as customers might like is because these companies can’t offer these products and still make money. How do you get buy-in from the business community?
Speaker Ryan: It’s a great question. Here’s what people aren’t seeing, which is Number Two. Tom Price, for legal reasons, can’t tell you what he’s thinking about doing. There’s laws that prevent that. We can do so much deregulation through the Executive Branch by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. He actually just put one regulation out the other day, which will go a long ways toward lowering the cost of health insurance.
We sent repeated emails to the Speaker’s office asking for an explanation or identification of which laws the Speaker was referencing, but they’ve gone unanswered. Our own research has failed to uncover any laws that would prevent Secretary Price from discussing his regulatory plans.
What seems more likely is that either HHS hasn’t formulated all of its plans for regulatory relief or that, if it has, the Speaker is holding those cards close to his vest. Either way, we know of no laws that prevent HHS from announcing its regulatory intentions either to Congress or the public, and Speaker Ryan hinders open debate on the issue by stating otherwise.
Josh Blackman has detailed some of the regulatory options available to HHS. If the Speaker and Secretary Price intend to use any of these options, or have others of their own, they should disclose it to the public and not claim there are secret, unidentified laws that prevent them.