President-elect Joe Biden’s nomination of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead the Health and Human Services Department suggests the administration plans to make it easier for states to create single-payer systems under the Affordable Care Act.
Becerra’s antitrust case against Sutter Health has implications for the health care system and how insurers negotiate with hospitals. The case claimed Sutter Health exploited the market by aggressively buying hospitals and physician groups. The company paid $575 million to settle while agreeing to end the practices that the suit alleged limited competition and increased health care costs.
Becerra is a fierce defender of the Affordable Care Act and has previously expressed support for Medicare for All. While Becerra does not have experience running public health programs, he does have significant experience in health care policy and litigation. Supporters think he will bring the legal and political acumen needed to strengthen and enhance the Affordable Care Act after filing numerous lawsuits aimed at overturning Trump administration efforts to dismantle aspects of the ACA.
Outlook: Becerra has taken several positions that impact employer-sponsored insurance, including opposition to association health plans and short-term health plans. Becerra has stated he intends to “build on our progress and ensure every American has access to quality, affordable health care—through this pandemic and beyond.”