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HHS Nominee Backs Interstate Health Coverage Sales

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Alex Azar II says he supports the idea of letting insurers sell health coverage across state lines.

Azar, a former Eli Lilly & Co. executive, is President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the next secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on the nomination Tuesday.

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., asked Azar about the idea of letting consumers buy health coverage from out-of-state health insurers.

“I’m supportive of those efforts,” Azar told Heller. “Frankly, anything that can help increase access and choice, and make more options available to the patients and consumers, the more likely they are going to find something that’s affordable for them and works for them.”

(Related: 5 Things Trump’s Health Secretary Pick Told Senators)

Earlier, Azar told Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., that he wants to make whatever health insurance exists work better.

He also told Scott that he questions the value of Affordable Care Act public exchange plan coverage.

“What we have is not working for people,” Azar said. “Not working for the 10 million in the individual market. For many of those people, [the coverage] can be a false insurance card. Insurance, but with a very high deductible, or not having access to providers.”

The fact that 28 million people still lack health coverage increases individual major medical premiums for the people who do have individual major medical coverage, Azar said.

“Can we create more choices and make those offerings more attractive, to create a better risk pool, to help the taxpayer and the people in that market?” Azar asked.

Azar said that, in addition to supporting the idea of interstate health coverage sales, he supports efforts to improve health coverage by letting states adjust Affordable Care Act program rules through the ACA Section 1332 waiver process.

In response to a question from Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., Azar said he supports the ability of states to set benefits package rules for their residents, such as state-level birth control benefits mandates.

More information about the hearing, including a link to a video recording of the hearing, is available here.

—Read Trump Health Nominee Faces Another Grilling on U.S. Drug Costs on ThinkAdvisor.

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