Donald Trump’s pick for Health and Human Services secretary is a former orthopedic surgeon who said he got into government to get government off his back. So it’s safe to say that if Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., is confirmed, he won’t hesitate to lead the effort to repeal Obamacare.
Here’s what you need to know about Price.
He’s one of the sharpest critics of Obamacare: He’s known in Washington as a reliable critic of Obamacare. Most recently he declared “Obamacare is failing,” in a Nov. 1 op-ed on the conservative website Townhall. That op-ed was written shortly after the administration announced that some Obamacare premiums would be rising next year.
He’s a powerful member of Congress: Since coming to Congress in 2004 representing the greater Atlanta area, Price has steadily climbed the ranks as a health-care policy wonk and deficit hawk. He’s chair of the House Budget Committee, which is in charge of, well, federal budgets. It’s a job House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., also held.
Speaking of Ryan, Price is close with him: Price often touts Ryan’s “Better Way” agenda. He is also a leader among policy-oriented conservatives in the House, so his selection suggests that Trump is offering an olive branch to a group of sometimes-wary establishment conservatives, points out Atlanta Journal Constitution columnist Kyle Wingfield.
He has introduced legislation to repeal Obamacare: The “replace” part, under Price’s 2014 plan, is minimal: He would provide $3 billion to help states cover people who might lose their insurance. For comparison, Ryan – no fan of Obamacare himself – has proposed $25 billion in grants.
Price’s philosophy on fixing Obamacare is rooted in “clear(ing) out the bureaucratic impediments” to health-care providers so that the marketplace can figure out the best way to get people health insurance. Price has also supported giving individuals and small businesses the ability to pool together to, in his words, “gain the purchasing power of millions.”
He also supports privatizing Medicare: This could be another flashpoint with Democrats, who say there’s no way they’ll let Republicans turn over Medicare and other government health benefits to private companies.
He appears to agree with Trump on liking some aspects of Obamacare: Since being elected president, Trump has suggested he’d like to keep some of the more popular elements of Obamacare, like forcing insurance companies to insure people with pre-existing conditions, or allowing young adults up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ coverage.
Price has supported the idea of requiring insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions.
He could undo the mandate requiring people to have health insurance: In 2012, the Supreme Court decided that the most controversial part of Obamacare was constitutional: The requirement that people must get insured by leveraging tax penalties on the uninsured.
But that doesn’t mean the government HAS to require people to get insured. As our nation’s top health policy official, Price would have wide latitude to enforce (or not enforce) parts of the law (until Congress decides on a new one). That includes the mandate.
He’s also a staunch abortion foe: While in Congress, Price voted against providing federal funding to health-care plans that cover abortions.
He could be a major player in political battles with Democrats: With a Republican in the White House and Republican majorities in Congress, this is Republicans’ big chance to get rid of Obamacare.
How, exactly? That remains to be seen. Price does need to be confirmed by the Senate to claim his job. And while lawmakers usually give deference to fellow lawmakers in these positions, early indications are he could face opposition from those same Democrats who have decided to fight any repeal of Obamacare.