Trump looks to Obamacare critic to overhaul health care
NEW YORK: US President-elect Donald Trump named a vociferous critic of Obamacare and a policy consultant on Tuesday to help him overhaul the health care 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 health care 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 quali- fied to shepherd our commitment to repeal and replace Obamacare and bring affordable and accessible health care to every American.”
Price said there was much work to be done “to ensure we have a health care 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 health care 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 US 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 health care 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 hardfought Nov. 8 election.
Rep. Tom Price arrives at the Trump Tower in New York for a meeting in this Nov. 16 file picture. (AP)