Health Team

HHS nominee Price opposes Obamacare, backs Medicare vouchers

Posted November 29

— 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 program 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. Price is buttoned down and unfailingly polite, but he is not shy about swinging his elbows in the heat of debate.

As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Price emerged as a top advocate of Speaker Paul Ryan's plan to transform Medicare from a program 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 said last month that "every single day Obamacare is making the quality of health care in this country worse ....Patients and taxpayers cannot afford Obamacare and clearly this law was doomed from the start."

Any changes to Medicare and the health care law would be far-reaching, affecting some 85 million Americans.

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 Like Trump and most other Republicans, Price wants federal funding withdrawn from Planned Parenthood, which has come under attack for its practice of supplying tissue from aborted fetuses to medical researchers.

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.

While Republicans are generally united in their desire to repeal Obama's health law, there's no consensus on what should replace it. Price has offered a solution that would provide tax credits to subsidize the purchase of individual and family health insurance policies. His proposal would also allow insurers to sell policies across state line, boost incentives for health savings accounts, and create high-risk pools to help individuals afford coverage, while barring assistance for nearly all abortions.

It will fall to Price, once confirmed, to be the prime go-between Trump and Capitol Hill Republicans in what are certain to be difficult and complicated negotiations over replacing the health care law. Price serves on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over Obamacare, but he hasn't been seen as an inside player in much of the panel's work.

The HHS secretary also has great power over the workings of Medicare and Medicaid and the medical profession in general.

Price led the House Republican Study Committee, a powerful band of conservative voices, during the first two years of the Obama administration. He lost a close election in 2012 to become the No. 4 Republican in House GOP ranks despite the support of Ryan, a friend and confidante. At the time, Republicans faced criticism for a lack of diversity in their leadership ranks, and GOP leaders like former Speaker John Boehner of Ohio swung behind Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state.

Democrats reacted with alarm to the naming of Price, though they lack the power to block him 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-N.Y. "Thanks to those three programs, 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."


This story has been corrected to fix the spelling of McMorris Rodgers.


Please with your account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Jacob Young Nov 29, 8:02 p.m.
    user avatar

    Anyone who is out in the real world knows that the ACA has been an abysmal failure. Most ACA premiums are unaffordable without government assistance and to get assistance you have to be just about homeless. ObamaCare is another nail in the coffin of the middle class. Everyone's insurance rates are going up between 20 and 30 percent next year. Companies are transforming full time jobs into part time jobs so they won't have to pay for it.

    The Trump administration needs to replace it quickly with a workable solution before Obamacare hurts more people.

  • Robin Cubbon Nov 29, 5:01 p.m.
    user avatar

    jeff sessions is totally against marijuana so you can forget that.

  • Raleigh Rose Nov 29, 4:13 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Jason I completely agree!! Talk about a cash crop! :)

  • Jason Merrill Nov 29, 3:57 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    The easy answer to funding is to legalize and tax marijuana. Not only would it generate enormous tax revenue, it would also gain monies from law enforcement and prison budgets as the need to arrest and hold convicted marijuana offenders would literally disappear.

  • Raleigh Rose Nov 29, 3:46 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Wouldn't having the government underwrite people you say are uninsurable be depending on the government? You said we can live without the government, but you want the government to underwrite insurance policies. how is that not depending on the government?

    Also, how are you going to offset the reduction in tax income for the country that goes to things like police, infrastructure, armed forces, etc, with such large tax deductions in addition to the other deductions people take? This is also going to cause people to have to pay everything for their health insurance up front before they can get the tax refund and many people simply will not have the money. Are these people just going to go back to being uninsured and using the ER as their PCP and driving up costs for the rest of us again?

  • Steve Smith Nov 29, 3:22 p.m.
    user avatar

    By de-facto Mike that is what is happening now. Many Americans are delaying retirement for a myriad of reasons and staying on their employer's plan.

    We need to come to terms that is not going to be business as usual in "the swamp." A simple law after repealing Obamacare, stating you can deduct all medical expenses without meeting the 7.5% AGI requirement, and claim this deduction even if you are not itemizing, would outweigh any benefit the normal American is getting from this plan. Further, for those uninsurable have the federal government underwrite them.

    The main problem is when people realize they can live without government activism, government activists are dead. They are fighting for their lives on this one, in the swamp.

  • Mike Slawter Nov 29, 2:04 p.m.
    user avatar

    By raising Medicare eligibility ages, millions will keep working and being covered under a corporate insurance plan...surely you jest Mr. Trump that you want business to cover this expense and carry this burden?

  • Raleigh Rose Nov 29, 1:53 p.m.
    user avatar

    Part of the issue with repealing the ACA is that if you ask people if they like it they will tell you no. But, if you ask people if they like specific provisions, they will tell you they do like it and approve. And good luck taking away the provisions people like at this point.