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)

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