Trump Choice for HHS Puts Target on Obamacare

President-elect taps one of the Affordable Care Act's leading congressional critics to oversee its dismantling

President-Elect Donald Trump on Tuesday tapped Georgia Rep. Tom Price to run the Department of Heath and Human Services, sending a strong signal that his pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare was more than campaign rhetoric.

Price, an orthopedic surgeon first elected to Congress in 2004, did more than simply vote dozens of times with his Republican colleagues to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He put forth a detailed blueprint of what would come next, a health care system that relies more on market forces than government mandates.

“He is exceptionally qualified to shepherd our commitment to repeal and replace Obamacare and bring affordable and accessible health care to every American.”

Price, 62, serves as chairman of the House Budget Committee.

“Chairman Price, a renowned physician, has earned a reputation for being a tireless problem solver and the go-to expert on health care policy, making him the ideal choice to serve in this capacity,” Trump said in a prepared statement. “He is exceptionally qualified to shepherd our commitment to repeal and replace Obamacare and bring affordable and accessible health care to every American.”

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Price’s Empowering Patients First Act would offer tax deductions and credits to help people buy private insurance and would promote state-based high-risk insurance pools. It also would create individual and small employer membership associations and association health plans, and it would allow health insurance policies to be sold across state lines for the first time — a proposal Trump stressed repeatedly on the campaign trail.

In addition, Price’s bill zeroed in on an area of health policy that Obamacare largely ignored — medical malpractice lawsuits.

“It is an honor to be nominated to serve our nation as secretary of [the Department of] Health and Human Services,” Price said in a statement released by Trump’s transition team. “I am humbled by the incredible challenges that lay ahead and enthusiastic for the opportunity to be a part of solving them on behalf of the American people.”

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The nomination drew praise from critics of the Affordable Care Act.

“This pick would suggest that Trump is serious about dismantling Obamacare and replacing it with a market-based alternative,” tweeted Lanhee Chen, a research fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution who advised Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign.

Grace-Marie Turner, president of the free market-oriented health research Galen Institute, said Price brings a unique combination of hands-on experience in the medical field, knowledge of the legislative process, and policy depth.

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“Fabulous choice,” she told LifeZette. “He’s really one in a million … perfect for this job.”

Turner added, “Dr. Price brings so much more than that to the table.”

FreedomWorks CEO Adam Brandon said in a statement that Price already has demonstrated leadership on health care reform.

“We know repealing Obamacare and replacing it won’t be an easy task, but Chairman Price is the right person to lead this effort in the incoming administration,” he said.

Fellow Georgian, Republican Sen. David Perdue, said in his own statement that Price understands what is required to reverse a Washington takeover of the health care system.

“As a doctor, he is seen as a leading voice on health care policy and has a commonsense plan to replace Obamacare that will lower costs and put patients in charge of their health care choices,” he stated.

Trump also picked Seema Verma to serve as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“She has decades of experience advising on Medicare and Medicaid policy and helping states navigate our complicated systems,” Trump said in a statement. “Together, Chairman Price and Seema Verma are the dream team that will transform our health care system for the benefit of all Americans.”

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Verma, president, CEO, and founder of a national health policy consulting firm called SVC Inc., has worked for more than 20 years on a variety of policy and strategic projects involving Medicaid, insurance, and public health. She has worked with governors’ offices, state Medicaid agencies, state health departments, and insurance departments, as well as the federal government, private companies, and foundations.

She helped design the Healthy Indiana Plan, the country’s first consumer-directed Medicaid program. She also helped Vice President-Elect Mike Pence, Indiana’s governor, develop a request for a waiver from the federal government in order to take a different approach from the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.

The program shifts Medicaid recipients into high-deductible insurance plans and sets up accounts that operate like health savings accounts to pay those out-of-pocket expenses. It also requires some Medicaid recipients to pay premiums.

“I am honored to be nominated by President-Elect Trump today,” Verma said in a statement. “I look forward to helping him tackle our nation’s daunting healthcare problems in a responsible and sustainable way.”

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