Brian Blase, PhD, is an economist and a key architect of President Trump’s health policy agenda. Dr. Blase is driven to improve America’s health care system by empowering consumers, by injecting more competition into the system, and by permitting innovation to flourish. Dr. Blase served as the Special Assistant to the President at the White House’s National Economic Council from January 2017 through June 2019. In that capacity, Dr. Blase coordinated the Trump Administration’s health policy agenda, developed legislative and regulatory strategies, and advised the President, the Director of the NEC, and other senior government officials. Most notably, he led the process to implement an Executive Order that President Trump signed in October 2017 that resulted in three final regulations to expand affordable health coverage options for employers and families and a comprehensive report, Reforming America’s Health Care System Through Choice and Competition.
In addition to coordinating the implementation of the October 2017 Executive Order, Dr. Blase worked on numerous other administrative actions and legislative proposals, including policies to expand consumer-directed care, reform Medicaid, Medicare, and the individual market, drug pricing reforms, and the June 2019 Executive Order promoting health care price and quality transparency. Dr. Blase also drafted and reviewed op-eds, talking points, and speeches for the President, the Director of the National Economic Council, and Cabinet secretaries.
In a press briefing for the June 2019 Executive Order, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar praised Dr. Blase’s work, saying “This EO builds on the Choice and Competition report that HHS, the White House, Treasury, Labor, and the Federal Trade Commission produced last year. That report was, in particular, a tribute to the indefatigable work of Brian Blase of the National Economic Council, who is soon going to be departing the administration and should be very proud of the results he’s delivered.”
In promoting and explaining the Trump administration’s health policy agenda, Dr. Blase has spoken in front of several different types of audiences, including members of Congress and staff, a National Association Insurance Commissioner annual meeting, NAHU’s annual conference, academic panels, and dozens of meetings with health policy leaders and state officials.
In addition to his White House experience, Dr. Blase has extensive congressional experience with two key committees. Dr. Blase was a senior professional staff member at the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform from 2011 through 2014, leading the Committee’s oversight of health care and entitlement programs and related investigations. In that capacity, he developed oversight strategies, conducted dozens of transcribed interviews, prepared members and staff for hearings, and was the primary author of eleven staff reports issued by the Committee. From 2014 through 2015, Dr. Blase served as the health policy analyst at the Senate Republican Policy Committee. During his time working in the Senate, Dr. Blase authored papers distributed at the weekly Senate Republican policy lunch and participated in the development of legislative proposals and strategies with senators and staff.
In addition to his government service, Dr. Blase has worked at two public policy research institutes as a health policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation in 2010 and 2011 and as a senior research fellow with the Spending and Budget Initiative at the Mercatus Center from 2015 until entering the White House. In his position with Mercatus, he authored or co-authored six research papers, wrote nearly 50 commentaries, regularly briefed federal and state policymakers, and frequently appeared in media.
Dr. Blase has had pieces published in the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Forbes, among numerous outlets. He has also appeared on television several times, including on CSPAN, CNBC, and PBS, and has frequently appeared on radio. Dr. Blase received his PhD from George Mason University in 2013 in economics, with his dissertation on Medicaid financing. He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and five children.
Health care policy will be a top issue in the 2020 election, and the Democratic candidate for President is likely to run on Medicare-for-all or a Medicare buy-in. Republicans have a very different vision of health care reform—centered on empowering consumers with greater choices and a more transparent system and on injecting more competition into the market. As a key architect of President Trump’s health policy agenda, Dr. Blase will explain the Trump administration’s health policy agenda, preview forthcoming policy proposals, and lay out the contrast between the Republican and Democrat health care agendas, including discussing potential areas of compromise.
On June 13, 2019, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury issued a final regulation which created two new health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs). Dr. Blase led the Administration’s effort finalizing this regulation, which permits employers to provide tax-free contributions for workers to choose individual market plans that work best for them. In effect, the HRA regulation equalizes the tax advantage between traditional employer-sponsored coverage and the new HRAs. The Administration expects 800,000 employers to offer these HRAs with 11 million workers and family members enrolling in the individual market in about five years. This regulation has the potential to transform employer benefits and also holds the potential for a political compromise to Obamacare since both political parties have a vested interest in the success of the individual market. Dr. Blase will explain the HRA rule and discuss how the rule may break the political deadlock over Obamacare.
While in the White House, Dr. Blase had a central role in the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. Once the legislative efforts stalled, Dr. Blase was a key architect in the Trump Administration’s agenda for helping Americans negatively affected by the law and making the law work as well as possible. Dr. Blase spent much of his career focused on Obamacare before he joined the White House. From 2011 through 2014, Dr. Blase led congressional oversight of Obamacare, including major investigations into the Obama Administration’s implementation of the law. As the health policy analyst at the Senate Republican Policy Committee, Dr. Blase staffed Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, who was tasked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with developing a replacement plan for Obamacare if the Supreme Court struck down major aspects of the law in King v. Burwell. Dr. Blase will explain why Republicans fought against Obamacare, the various Republican attempts to repeal and replace the law, the key legislative failures in 2017 when the Republican Party had unified control over the federal government, and how the Trump Administration pursued a policy to increase health care freedom, expand affordable coverage options for Americans, and deal with some of Obamacare’s most troublesome provisions, such as Medicaid expansion. Dr. Blase will discuss the lessons learned for organizing a major policy effort to roll back government. Dr. Blase will also provide recommendations for dealing with Obamacare’s lasting legacy—a massive expansion of Medicaid.
In a press briefing for the June 2019 Executive Order on health care price and quality transparency, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar praised Dr. Blase’s work, saying “This EO builds on the Choice and Competition report that HHS, the White House, Treasury, Labor, and the Federal Trade Commission produced last year. That report was, in particular, a tribute to the indefatigable work of Brian Blase of the National Economic Council, who is soon going to be departing the administration and should be very proud of the results he’s delivered.” In his role as a Special Assistant to the President at the National Economic Council, Dr. Blase coordinated the Administration’s health policy making process. Working at the National Economic Council, he also had a front row seat observing the policy making process across all key economic issues. Dr. Blase will explain how the policy process works in the Trump White House, how key decisions get made, and how the Administration works with Congress and is preparing for the 2020 election.
There has been a nearly 40 percent decline in disability applications between 2010 and the present. Some of this is due to the strong economy and some of it is due to program reforms, particularly at the appeals level. At the appeals level, where cases are adjudicated by ALJs, allowance rates are down considerably from where they were in 2010. This is likely due to two factors—the public display of ALJ adjudication data in 2010 and strong congressional oversight and scrutiny in 2013 and 2014 (oversight that Dr. Blase led as a staffer for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform). The success of this translates into savings for taxpayers, an extension in the life of the disability insurance trust fund (it is now projected to be solvent until the 2050s—a dramatic change over the past few years), stronger economic growth, and upward mobility for beneficiaries who are not trapped as “disabled.” This achievement is one of the main successes in conservative/libertarian public policy over the past decade. While a strong economy is partly responsible, opening up the program to public scrutiny and congressional oversight dramatically improved the appeals process. The turnaround provides a case study in how to reform government. Dr. Blase will explain the policy success and how it serves as a model for government reform.