President-elect Donald Trump has announced his pick of Georgia Representative Tom Price for Health and Human Services Secretary. The announcement that Price would become the nation's next top health official came Tuesday morning, and in a statement Trump praised the orthopedic surgeon-turned-congressman as "exceptionally qualified to shepherd our commitment to repeal and replace Obamacare and bring affordable and accessible healthcare to every American."
Price has served six terms in congress, and had most recently chaired the House Budget Committee. From that post, he put forward a conservative replacement plan for Obamacare that hinged upon health savings accounts and tax credits for purchasing private coverage. Price's vision for healthcare in America includes giving fixed Medicare grants to states and ending the program's open entitlement system in favor of pre-set government contributions, Politico notes. Democrats have contended that such measures would lead to drastic cuts and decreased access for all but the richest of Americans. Currently, over 120 million people use either Medicare or Medicaid to help pay for care.
"There is much work to be done to ensure we have a healthcare system that works for patients, families, and doctors; that leads the world in the cure and prevention of illness; and that is based on sensible rules to protect the well-being of the country while embracing its innovative spirit," Price, 62, said in a statement after Trump's transition team made its announcement. Price endorsed Trump in May, near the end of the Republican presidential primary.
Trump made repealing Obamacare a centerpiece of his campaign strategy, and in spite of some apparent waffling, has now sent a clear message that he intends to follow through with his promise. According to the Washington Post, Price has been at the forefront of 60 unsuccessful GOP-led House votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
In a long-term study of health care costs, Health Affairs found Obamacare markedly slowed the rise of aggregate health care costs in America. Over 11 million Americans currently depend on Obamacare's open marketplace plans for insurance, and it's very likely that many of them voted for a candidate that will leave them without healthcare.
"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 told the New Yorker earlier this spring. “Which is kind of counterintuitive, given what some of his public persona is.”
Price is a staunch opponent of women's reproductive rights, having voted repeatedly to prohibit federal funding for abortion. He has a legislative rating of 0 from Planned Parenthood. Price has repeatedly voted against funding stem-cell research, and in 2007 supported a bill that would have utilized the 14th Amendment to give pre-born fetuses equal protection under the law.
"Congressman Price has proven to be far out of the mainstream of what Americans want when it comes to Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, and Planned Parenthood," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement addressing the new appointment. "Thanks to those three programs, millions of American seniors, families, people with disabilities and women have access to quality, affordable health care." Mayor Bill de Blasio also tweeted his concern over Price's appointment, arguing that it lays bare Trump's plan to take away healthcare coverage from the poor and elderly.
In 2011, Price was one of the founding members of the Republican Tea Party caucus.
"This is the absolute perfect choice," Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said Tuesday. "Tom Price has made health care his life's work. As a doctor, he has practiced and taught medicine, and he knows exactly how Washington's decisions affect patients. As a legislator, he has played a leading role in developing conservative health care solutions that put patients first."
Price's other conservative greatest hits include co-sponsoring a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and voting against a bill barring LGBTQ-based discrimination from the workplace. He's called the Obama administration's push for allowing transgender students to use bathrooms aligned with their gender identity "absurd."
Price's nomination must be confirmed by the Senate, which has a Republican majority.