Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Health Department nominee Price opposes Obamacare

Published:Wednesday | November 30, 2016 | 11:00 AM

As a congressman, Georgia Republican Tom Price has been thwarted in his hopes to repeal the Affordable Care Act and transform Medicare into a voucher-like programme for future participants.

Now, as President-elect Donald Trump's choice to run the Department of Health and Human Services, Price will wield great power as Trump's top health policy adviser and preside, Republicans hope, over the dismantlement of President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

Price, 62, carries himself with a surgeon's confidence and possesses deep knowledge of health policy. He is one of very few Republicans to actually propose a replacement for Obamacare, and promises to be a staunchly conservative voice in Trump's Cabinet.

As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Price emerged as a top advocate of Speaker Paul Ryan's plan to transform Medicare from a programme that supplies a defined set of benefits into a "premium support" model that would, similar to Obamacare, offer subsidies for participants to purchase health care directly from insurance companies. He also wants the Medicare eligibility age to rise to 67.

Price also supports, as does Trump, a plan by House Republicans to sharply cut the Medicaid health programme for the poor and disabled and turn it over to the states to run. Like Trump and most other Republicans, Price wants federal funding withdrawn from Planned Parenthood, which has come under attack for its practice of supplying tissue from aborted fetuses to medical researchers.

AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE

Trump has said he opposes GOP plans to provide vouchers for future Medicare beneficiaries and GOP support for the idea has never been tested beyond its inclusion in non-binding budget blueprints. Price's plan would require people who are now in their late 50s to accept the Medicare subsidies, which critics say would fail to keep pace with inflation and force higher out-of-pocket costs like deductibles and co-payments.

Trump named Price on Tuesday and called him "a tireless problem solver and the go-to expert on health care policy, making him the ideal choice" to run HHS.

"He is exceptionally qualified to shepherd our commitment to repeal and replace Obamacare," Trump said.

But Democrats reacted with alarm, though they lack the power to block Price because of a change to filibuster rules they orchestrated when controlling the Senate.

"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," said incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-NY. "Thanks to those three programmes, millions of American seniors, families, people with disabilities and women have access to quality, affordable health care. Nominating Congressman Price to be the HHS secretary is akin to asking the fox to guard the hen house."

- AP