President-elect Donald Trump has selected Georgia Rep. Tom Price (R), a six-term Congressman who sharply criticized the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and vehemently supported Mr. Trump’s campaign for the presidency, to head the department of Health and Human Services.
As third-generation doctor who previously ran an Atlanta-based orthopedic clinic, Dr. Price has also served as a Georgia state senator, advocating for doctors and espousing views and policy proposals similar to the positions of the American Medical Association and Medical Association of Georgia. He launched his career in politics after he grew frustrated by lawmakers without medical experience making decisions that affected his field.
Price will serve as the nation’s top health official as head of the HHS, giving him an integral role in Trump’s efforts to repeal and replace the ACA. While other elected Republicans raised concerns about Trump’s ability to lead the country and his temperament, Price repeatedly endorsed the then-Republican nominee.
“When I talk to people who work closely with Trump, what they tell me is that behind closed doors he’s one of the best listeners they’ve ever worked for or with in their life,” Price said in an interview in the spring, according to The Washington Post. “Which is kind of counterintuitive given what some of his public persona is.”
While Trump has offered few specifics of what his own health care plan would entail, GOP House members have aggressively drafted opposing legislation to the 2010 law that expanded Medicaid benefits to millions and provided insurance options and legal protections for others. Legislation sponsored by Price, called the Empowering Patients First Act, would repeal the ACA and instead give tax credits to those purchasing individual and family health insurance plans. His proposal would also make substantial changes to Medicare and Medicaid, repackaging Medicaid as block grants sent to states, allowing them to determine who is eligible and what services would be covered.
The Empowering Patients First Act also contains a provision that requires “able-bodied” recipients to work for their healthcare, an idea that the Obama administration strongly opposed, and allows insurers licensed in one state to sell policies to those living in others.
“Premiums have gone up, not down,” Price said in a recent critique of the current system, according to The New York Times. “Many Americans lost the health coverage they were told time and time again by the president that they could keep. Choices are fewer.”
Trump himself has said he’d like to replace the ACA with a plan that gives more power to the states to determine how they handle Medicare, and to allow insurance companies to operate across state lines.
While the president-elect has softened some of his positions against the ACA, stating days after the election that the may keep provisions that bar insurance companies from rejecting applicants who have pre-existing conditions and allow people under 26 to remain on their parents’ healthcare plans, Price’s proposal could have plenty of common ground with Trump’s ideals.
Price’s appointment will require a Senate confirmation, and any attempt to repeal and replace the ACA will require agreement from Congress.
This report contains material from Reuters.