Early on Nov. 29, president-elect Donald Trump nominated Tom Price, an orthopedic surgeon and Republican representative from Georgia, to lead the Department Health and Human Services. Price is currently the chair of the House Budget Committee, and strongly supported Trump’s candidacy for president.
The US Health Secretary is responsible for overseeing offices including the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In this role, Price would be responsible for allocating funds for health research in these divisions, setting the regulatory process for new drugs, and deciding the fate of the Affordable Care Act.
Price will likely try to dismantle Obamacare. During his congressional tenure, he authored the Empowering Patients First Act, which lays out a detailed (240-page) plan to repeal the ACA and replace it with one that particularly benefits those who are young, wealthy, in good health, or some combination of the three, according to Vox.
For example, Empowering Patients places an upper limit on what insurance companies can charge for younger patients—but not older patients. Although older patients may receive tax breaks for health insurance, these are based on age, not income. Empowering Patients also takes away the ACA’s mandate that insurers have to cover 10 different forms of primary care, including maternity and pediatric visits.
Like House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan, Better Way, Empowering Patients only covers patients with pre-existing conditions if they remain constantly insured (no lapses due to changes of employment, for example). However, while Better Way would set aside $25 billion over ten years for the sickest patients who can’t afford insurance otherwise, Empowering Patients only earmarks $3 billion over three years for this same group.
Finally, Empowering Patients would end the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid, which provides coverage for the poorest Americans. It does not propose a replacement plan, which means that although people would have access to tax credits (in amounts determined by age group) for private insurance, healthcare may still be prohibitively expensive for some.
As health secretary, Price can’t immediately instate Empowering Patients. But he will be working closely with Seema Verma, the former CEO of a health policy-consulting group in Indiana, whom Trump also selected on Nov. 29 to act as his administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Verma has helped republican governors, including vice president-elect Mike Pence from Indiana and Matt Bevin from Kentucky, improve their state Medicaid programs.
Price has expressed conservative views on women’s reproductive health, and voted to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood. He’s also voted in line with the National Right to Life Committee 53 times on 53 different bills. (Planned Parenthood has given Price a 0/100 on their congressional scorecards.)
Before he can assume office, Price’s nomination must be approved by the Senate, where it will likely be met with fierce opposition. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer from New York said in a statement, “Nominating Congressman Price to be the H.H.S. secretary is akin to asking the fox to guard the henhouse.”
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