Trump taps Oba­macare foe for health post

Nom­i­nee also fa­vors pri­va­tiz­ing Medi­care

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE -

WASH­ING­TON >> Reaching deep into con­ser­va­tive ter­ri­tory, Pres­i­den­t­elect Don­ald Trump chose Georgia Rep. Tom Price to over­see the na­tion’s health care sys­tem on Tues­day, pick­ing a fierce Oba­macare critic who also has cham­pi­oned ef­forts to pri­va­tize Medi­care. Trump se­lected another vet­eran Re­pub­li­can, Elaine Chao, to lead the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion. Both have long ties to Wash­ing­ton. Price, picked to lead the Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices af­ter more than a decade in Congress, helped craft House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan to pri­va­tize Medi­care — a po­si­tion Trump op­posed in the cam­paign. Chao, who was the first Asian-Amer­i­can woman to serve in a pres­i­dent’s Cabi­net, is mar­ried to Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell.

Trump an­nounced his choice of Price, while the se­lec­tion of Chao was con­firmed by a per­son with knowl­edge of the de­ci­sion but not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly.

The selections came as Trump spent Tues­day with ad­vis­ers in his Man­hat­tan sky­scraper, rac­ing through meet­ings with prospec­tive ad­min­is­tra­tion hires as high-pro­file va­can­cies loom — none big­ger than sec­re­tary of state. For­mer Mas­sachusetts Gov. Mitt Rom­ney, on the short list for the na­tion’s chief diplo­mat, was to have a pri­vate din­ner with the in­com­ing pres­i­dent.

Trump also met with for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Dan Quayle, who is not a Cabi­net can­di­date, among a half dozen vis­i­tors on the day.

Price’s se­lec­tion raised ques­tions about the in­com­ing pres­i­dent’s com­mit­ment to Medi­care, among other pop­u­lar en­ti­tle­ment pro­grams he re­peat­edly vowed to pre­serve be­fore the elec­tion. The Georgia con­gress­man led GOP ef­forts on Capi­tol Hill to trans­form Medi­care into a voucher-like sys-

tem, a change that, if en­acted, would likely dra­mat­i­cally re­duce gov­ern­ment spend­ing on the health care pro­gram that serves an es­ti­mated 57 mil­lion peo­ple.

Trump did not ad­dress Price’s po­si­tion on Medi­care in a state­ment re­leased by his tran­si­tion team, and the team did not re­spond to sub­se­quent ques­tions about it.

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

Trump, in a 2015 in­ter­view pro­moted on his cam­paign web­site, pledged not to cut ex­pen­sive en­ti­tle­ment pro­grams that Repub­li­cans have fought for years to cut to help re­duce the fed­eral deficit.

“I’m not go­ing to cut So­cial Se­cu­rity like ev­ery other Re­pub­li­can. And I’m not go­ing to cut Medi­care or Med­i­caid. Ev­ery other Re­pub­li­can’s go­ing to cut,” Trump told The Daily Sig­nal.

He later changed his mind on Med­i­caid, em­brac­ing the GOP con­cept of turn­ing the pro­gram over to the states with a fixed amount of fed­eral “block grant” fund­ing.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, DConn., a lead­ing Demo­cratic voice on health care, called

Price a leader of the move­ment to pri­va­tize Medi­care. She said his se­lec­tion “will re­sult in the com­plete un­der­min­ing of our na­tion’s health care sys­tem.”

Like Price, Chao is well known in Wash­ing­ton, hav­ing led the Depart­ment of La­bor for sev­eral years un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

Her record at the La­bor Depart­ment sug­gests she would bring a light hand to safety en­force­ment as trans­porta­tion sec­re­tary. Un­der Chao at La­bor, the Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion didn’t is­sue a sin­gle sig­nif­i­cant new safety reg­u­la­tion for four years. Mine safety in­spec­tors were cut and in­spec­tions re­duced.

Even as he weighed cru­cial Cabi­net de­ci­sions, Trump ap­peared dis­tracted by out­side is­sues — or eager to cre­ate dis­trac­tions him­self. He tweeted that “no­body should be al­lowed to burn the Amer­i­can flag.” He warned that those who do should face “per­haps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”

Trump of­fered no con­text for his mes­sage. The Supreme Court has ruled flag burn­ing is pro­tected by the First Amend­ment, and Re­pub­li­can House Ma­jor­ity Leader Kevin McCarthy said Tues­day he doesn’t sup­port Trump’s ap­proach.

“I sup­port the First Amend­ment,” he said.

The pres­i­dent-elect spent the week­end tweet­ing his op­po­si­tion to re­count ef­forts in up to three states led by Green Party can­di­date Jill Stein and joined by Hil­lary Clin­ton’s team. He also falsely claimed that mil­lions of peo­ple had voted il­le­gally in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and pro­vided no ev­i­dence.

AP FILE

U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., is shown in Jan­uary on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton.

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