Health and Human Services secretary makes no mention of Obamacare during Baltimore speech

Dr. Tom Price, President Donald J. Trump's secretary of health and human services, made no mention of the Affordable Care Act or a Republican replacement — which has stalled in Congress due to rifts within the party — during a speech at a summit of public human services providers in Baltimore Wednesday.

Instead, Price focused his remarks at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on outlining his agency's priorities and encouraging those in attendance at the American Public Human Services Association's national summit to share their feedback with the department, which he said is making strides toward better organization and efficiency.

"Our desire at HHS [is] to partner with you, to collaborate with you in a re-imagined HHS that is much more collaborative and supportive of your work," Price said. "The department now is on a receiving mode. We want to receive your ideas, whether it's on regulatory reform and changes that would be helpful and be able to allow you to do more, whether it's lowering the burden, decreasing the hurdles, removing the hurdles, to allow you to be able to do the work you do."

The APHSA includes state and local health and human service system leadership — which gathered in Baltimore for a four-day summit. Price served as the keynote speaker for the final day of the summit.

He outlined three of the most critical challenges for his department to address: childhood obesity, severe mental illness and the national opioid crisis.

"We're losing the battle on each and every one of them, and we ought not be," he said.

Price's only veiled reference to the health care infighting among Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill came early in his remarks, as he introduced himself.

"Having served 12 years in Congress ... I can tell you that sometimes I appreciate the fact that it's difficult to get folks moving in the same direction," he said to laughter: "I know that might be a surprise to some of you folks, but it is."

The latest version of the effort to repeal and replace the health care law known as Obamacare is teetering on the verge of failure as the conversation among GOP lawmakers has shifted to soul-searching and recriminations over what went wrong. While leaders say they have not given up on it, no vote is planned and some senior GOP lawmakers have signaled their dissent.

A failure to vote before the House goes on recess at the end of the week would mark the third time Republicans tried to muster support from their ranks to advance the health care overhaul, only to have to make an embarrassing retreat at the last minute.

Price asked the human services providers to help identify what federal regulations and other hurdles could be relaxed or eliminated to help them better help vulnerable people across the country. He signaled, too, that the Trump Administration plans to cede the provision of those services to state governments as it works to address the deficit and other priorities.

"How we solve these challenges is incredibly important, but it's clear that one thing is true, and that is that states will be asked to do a lot more in the provision of services," Price said. "You are where the rubber hits the road."

The Los Angeles Times contributed to this article.

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

@cmcampbell6

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