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Obamacare Critic To Head Health And Human Services

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Obamacare Critic To Head Health And Human Services

Tom Price, a rabid Obamacare critic, tapped to lead the HHS

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. President-elect Donald Trump named a vociferous critic of Obamacare and a policy consultant on Tuesday to help him overhaul the healthcare system that Republicans have targeted since Democrats enacted sweeping reforms in 2010.

Republican Representative Tom Price, an orthopedic surgeon from Georgia, will be Trump’s Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary, and consultant Seema Verma will lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a powerful agency that oversees government health programs and insurance standards.

Trump cast Price and Verma as a “dream team” to help him once he takes office on Jan. 20 with his campaign pledge to repeal Obamacare, Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature health law formally known as the Affordable Care Act.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer denounced the choice, calling Price “far out of the mainstream of what Americans want” and defending federal government healthcare efforts such as Obamacare and Medicare, the insurance program for the elderly and disabled, as well as support for Planned Parenthood, a women’s health organization.

“Nominating Congressman Price to be the HHS secretary is akin to asking the fox to guard the hen house,” Schumer said.

Of Price, Trump said in a statement: “He is exceptionally qualified to shepherd our commitment to repeal and replace Obamacare and bring affordable and accessible healthcare to every American.”

Price said there was much work to be done “to ensure we have a healthcare system that works for patients, families, and doctors.”

The 2010 Obamacare law, aimed at expanding health insurance coverage to millions more Americans, triggered a long and bitter fight between the White House and congressional Republicans, who said it created unwarranted government intervention in personal healthcare and private industry.

Trump has said he will replace Obamacare with a plan to give states more control over the Medicaid health plan for the poor and allow insurers to sell plans nationally.

Both positions named by Trump on Tuesday require Senate confirmation, and the Trump administration will need congressional approval to repeal and change the health law.


Price, an early Trump supporter in the U.S. House of Representatives, is chairman of the budget committee. He has long championed a plan of tax credits, expanded health savings accounts and lawsuit reforms to replace Obamacare.

Verma worked with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, the governor of Indiana, on a compromise to expand Medicaid coverage for the state’s poor with federal funding. The Indiana program requires beneficiaries to make monthly contributions to health savings accounts.

“What the governor fought for is the personal-responsibility part of the program,” Seema Verma told the Times of Indiana earlier this year.

Trump said Verma had decades of experience advising on Medicare and Medicaid policy and helping states navigate complicated healthcare systems.

Price campaigned with Trump because he promised to overhaul Obamacare. However, Trump’s position on the health insurance program appeared to soften after he met Obama following the hard-fought Nov. 8 election.

Obama has acknowledged the law could use improvements but has credited Obamacare with cutting the number of uninsured Americans from 49 million in 2010 to 29 million in 2015. Much of that drop is due to the law’s provision allowing states to expand Medicaid.

Trump said he would consider keeping provisions in the law that let parents keep adult children up to age 26 on insurance policies and bar insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has touted House Republicans’ plan to replace Obamacare, praised the selection of Price, saying: “We could not ask for a better partner to work with Congress to fix our nation’s health care challenges.”


Trump’s work to fill his administration comes alongside a series of controversial tweets targeting efforts to recount the presidential vote and, on Tuesday, one calling for burning the U.S. flag to be a crime. The Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that flag burning is protected speech under the First Amendment.

Trump has met with about 70 people as he looks to shape his White House and Cabinet team. He is expected to reveal an additional Cabinet pick on Tuesday while continuing to consider his options for the three biggest positions – secretaries of state, defense and Treasury.

Trump saw retired General David Petraeus, a potential candidate for the State Department or the Pentagon, on Monday. On Tuesday, he is expected to meet with U.S. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and later have dinner with Mitt Romney.

Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, and Corker are in the running for secretary of state, along with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

(Addtional reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Writing by Roberta Rampton and Susan Heavey; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Frances Kerry)

IMAGE: Chairman of the House Budget Committee Tom Price (R-GA) announces the House Budget during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 17, 2015. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo



  1. sigrid28 November 29, 2016

    Will Republican darlings of the NRA fight to retain mental health parity, the provision of the ACA that requires insurers to treat a mental illness as if it were, say, a case of the flu or a broken leg, a medical condition? If improved mental health care is the only solution to gun violence supported by the NRA and other Second Amendment advocates, Trump’s administration should retain this provision of the ACA.

  2. sigrid28 November 29, 2016

    The provision of the ACA that prevents insurers from discriminating against people with prior conditions is very popular with all Americans, even those who see no benefit in other provisions of the ACA.

    Related to this, but less well-known, is the provision of the ACA that prevents insurers from dropping clients once they become sick. Imagine you buy into the Tom Price Special, pay over a thousand dollars a month for it (individual not family coverage), get diagnosed with a brain tumor required surgery, costly medications, and extended treatment protocols. The current ACA does not permit your insurer to drop you because of the diagnosis, as insurers could and did in the bad old days.

    Under the Tom Price Special, we go back to the bad old days. You get a cancer diagnosis, you can kiss your health insurance good bye.

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  3. sigrid28 November 29, 2016

    I wonder whether a future President Trump, the father of daughters, will wish to have the provision of the ACA dropped that makes it illegal for insurers to charge women more than men for coverage?

    1. PrecipitousDrop November 30, 2016

      No, not Rep. Price.
      He is opposed to contraceptive coverage under ACA, is rigorously opposed to abortion, and supports defunding Planned Parenthood even though nary a cent of federal money is applied to abortions services.
      Vice President-elect Mike Pence and proposed HHS Secretary, Rep. Price, will afford the women of the United States all of the health care coverage that men require, no more and no less. Biology be damned.

      1. sigrid28 November 30, 2016

        “Vice President-elect Mike Pence and proposed HHS Secretary, Rep. Price, will afford the women of the United States all of the health care coverage that men require, no more and no less. Biology be damned.”
        But women will have to PAY more!

  4. sigrid28 November 29, 2016

    One of the features yet to be incorporated into the ACA and Medicare is a deal with pharmaceutical companies that cuts costs to the U.S. government. Surely this would benefit veterans as well as seniors and those previously uninsured but now covered by policies bought through the health exchanges under the ACA. Or does a President Trump and his secretary of HHS only make deals that benefit drug companies and doctors?

    1. Thoughtopsy November 29, 2016

      The problem they have in trying to make “healthcare affordable for all Americans” is that getting any sort of healthcare in the USA is already too expensive due to the pharma industry and the insurance companies… and the GOP want to spend less government money on it.

      The end result of this is obviously less healthcare for less people, unless you address the rampant price gouging in the system and fight to bring down costs.

      Normally all this would require would be instituting Single payer. The Government becomes the major customer and prices are driven down to reasonable levels because of the government’s sheer buying power.

      If you’re not going to do that then at a minimum you need:
      1) An Insurance Regulatory body and Ombudsman (similar to the Consumer Protection Agency but specifically for the Insurance industry)
      2) Break up the Insurance Cartels in every area where they are colluding and price fixing.
      3) Stop vertical integration of the medical industry by blocking Insurance companies from “Owning” hospitals. Hospitals must not be aligned to a specific insurance company.
      4) Regulatory body for the Pharma and medical device industry that sets official prices. No more gouging on drugs or devices.
      5) Guidelines for hospital pricing structures, laws requiring breakdown of costs to the consumer, and referral to the Insurance Ombudsman of any ridiculous costs.

      The problem you have is the GOP are treating Healthcare like any other business. But if you get bad healthcare advice/treatment over time, and die, or you are dying and need immediate healthcare… you don’t have the luxury of browsing the “free market” for competitor’s products and services.

      You’ve completely privatized a “Public Good”. And now the corporations are making profits off death, disease, despair and human suffering. And they are maximizing those profits even if it causes more of the same.

      I’ve never seen a country so hellbent on and complacent about using it’s own citizens as fodder for corporate profit… then discarding them when they have nothing left, to die alone in the streets.
      It’s a horror story.

      1. sigrid28 November 29, 2016

        Thank you for writing so eloquently on this deserving subject–preaching to the choir in my case. I’m with you on the whole post.

        I would only add that, on your #3, insurers must not dominate healthcare systems, BUT AT THE SAME TIME, hospitals and healthcare delivery institutions should not be allowed to refuse to accept a patients health insurance either. The Republican governor of our state decided that all persons carrying Medicaid health coverage (many of them with disabilities) must belong to one of three Managed Care Organizations. Only one of our local clinics/hospitals includes psychiatrists in its practice, and this one decided to accept only one of the three MCO options. Then the administrators of this clinic/hospital system refused to let psychiatric patients know which insurer would be accepted. These administrators waited until the last possible day of enrollment to tell psychiatric patients which insurer they would accept. Of course, there was a drawn-out process for changing insurers, but this clinic/hospital’s hostility toward psychiatric patients in the MCOs was on display for all to see. So I would have your #3 go both ways, insurers may not drive others from a clinic or hospital, and hospitals and clinics may not refuse to accept a patient’s health insurance coverage, especially if it is mandated by the government.

        1. crane.tammie November 29, 2016

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    2. PrecipitousDrop November 30, 2016

      The last four times bills to allow negotiating lower costs for drugs sold to the federal government came to votes in congress, it was resoundingly defeated by Republicans.

  5. FireBaron November 30, 2016

    While not a fan, at least Price supposedly has a replacement plan for the ACA on paper, rather than the ones who just want to dump it, and allow the “market” to handle things. The Market, however, is the reason health care is in the mess it currently is in. Rising prices, long waits for services, etc. would all be expanded under most GOP plans.

    1. PrecipitousDrop November 30, 2016

      Also, restrictions and limitations of covered treatments, a return to annual and lifetime maximum benefits, and restrictions on allowable medical malpractice claims and payment caps on the malpractice claims that are allowed.

      1. jaynemcgill December 1, 2016

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  6. nataliamccombs December 1, 2016

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