By Steve Holland
NEW YORK, Nov 29 : President-elect Donald Trump today named a vociferous Obamacare critic and an Indiana policy consultant to help him overhaul the US healthcare system.
Republican Representative Tom Price, an orthopedic surgeon from Georgia, will be Trump’s Health and Human Services 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, President Barack Obama’s signature health law formally known as the Affordable Care Act.
Of Price, Trump said in a statement: “He is exceptionally qualified to shepherd our commitment to repeal and replace Obamacare and bring affordable and accessible healthcare to every American.” Price said there was much work to be done “to ensure we have a healthcare system that works for patients, families, and doctors” based on “sensible rules to protect the well-being of the country while embracing its innovative spirit.” The 2010 Obamacare law triggered a long and bitter political battle between the White House and congressional Republicans, who said it created unwarranted government intervention in personal healthcare 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 require Senate confirmation, and the Trump administration will need congressional approval to repeal and replace the health law.
Price, an early Trump supporter from 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.
Trump said Verma had decades of experience advising on Medicare and Medicaid policy and helping states navigate complicated healthcare systems.
“Together, Chairman Price and Seema Verma are the dream team that will transform our healthcare system for the benefit of all Americans,” he said.
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 hard-fought Nov. 8 election.
Obama has acknowledged the law could use improvements but has credited Obamacare with cutting the number of uninsured Americans from 49 million in 2010 to 29 million in 2015. Much of that drop is due to the law’s provision allowing states to expand Medicaid.
Trump said he would consider keeping provisions in the law that let parents keep adult children up to age 26 on insurance policies and bar insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
Price and Verma are two of about 70 people with whom Trump has met as he looks to shape his White House and Cabinet team.
Trump is expected to reveal an additional Cabinet pick today while continuing to consider his options for the three biggest positions – secretaries of state, defense and Treasury.
Trump saw retired General David Petraeus, a potential candidate for the State Department or the Pentagon, yesterday. Today, he is expected to meet with US Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and later have dinner with Mitt Romney.
Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, and Corker are in the running for secretary of state, along with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.