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Obamacare Ruling Moves Debate To Presidential Race, Rep. Tom Price Says


Now to a Republican lawmaker who's been at the front of the fight to undo the Affordable Care Act. Georgia's Tom Price chairs the House Budget Committee. He's also a doctor. He's spent nearly 20 years in private practice. I asked him how he felt when he heard the court's decision today.

TOM PRICE: I was disappointed today 'cause I think that, as Justice Scalia said, something along the lines of, words no longer matter. The letter of the law clearly did not support this decision at the Supreme Court. I accept the decision. It's the Supreme Court of the United States, and their decision is final. Now, that doesn't mean it's the right decision.

MARTIN: This is the second time the Supreme Court has reaffirmed key provisions of the Affordable Care Act. What does today's ruling mean for your efforts to replace it?

PRICE: It doesn't harm the effort to replace it at all because the bill, regardless of what the Supreme Court says, doesn't work. It doesn't work for families, it doesn't work for patients, it doesn't work for doctors, it doesn't work for employers or employees. Accessibility is decreasing with the narrowing of networks. Affordability is decreasing. If you're a mom or dad out there and you make $40,000, $50,000, $60,000, but your deductible under Obamacare is $6,000 or even $10,000 or $12,000 then you don't even have health coverage. You're making financial decision not to obtain that care. And we're seeing that play out. My former physician colleagues will tell you every single day that people are making decisions not to get care, which means that the quality of their care is decreasing and then choices clearly have been violated. So the American people understand that, and that's why they continue to be opposed to this law by greater numbers than support it.

MARTIN: Although, I would point out a recent Gallup poll says that Americans are essentially warming to the idea that more Americans are favorable towards the ACA, and the longer that this is the law of the land, millions more Americans have health insurance. Does it become more difficult for you to argue for stripping them of that benefit?

PRICE: Well, we wouldn't. What we would do is replace it with a benefit that allows them to select the coverage that they want, not be forced to buy the coverage that the government requires them to buy. The fact of the matter is, what our plan is, H.R.2300, Empowering Patients First Act, would actually get more people covered than the president's plan, but do it in a way that allows them to get the coverage that they want, not that the government forces them to buy.

MARTIN: But Republicans as a whole haven't been able to coalesce around one particular plan. Why not? What's the problem? Why aren't you getting traction for your plan?

PRICE: Well, that's a great question. I think that most recently, it's been the distraction of this Supreme Court case, actually. Folks have been wanting to see what the court was going to say before they made a decision about how to move forward. In this instance, the court deciding in favor of the government - in favor of Burwell - means that our efforts then can be redirected to those patient-centered positive solutions that are so necessary in our health care arena.

MARTIN: Where do you go now though? I mean, this has got to be a blow to that effort. Do you start from scratch? Do you re-tool your bill? I mean, even if your bill advances, you still face a presidential veto. Do you need to wait till there's - till you can try to elect a Republican to sit in the White House until real change comes, as far as you're concerned?

PRICE: It's going to take a different president. That's always been the understanding there. None of us were living under the delusion that the president was going to sign a piece of legislation that would positively reform his signature legislation. I guess what this ruling does today now is transfers the debate to the presidential contest level, and I think that the American people will engage in a significant way, and I think what they'll be telling their desired candidates is that they want patients and families and doctors to be in charge of health care, not Washington, D.C.

MARTIN: Tom Price, he's the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, giving us his response to today's Supreme Court ruling upholding key provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Thanks so much for talking with us, Congressman.

PRICE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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