After President-elect Donald Trump met with President Barack Obama for the first time after his election in November, he offered some conciliatory words about the outgoing president’s signature domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act. Acknowledging that many elements of Obamacare are popular, he suggested that parts of the law might remain in place rather than being torn up root and branch as many Republicans have demanded.
But whatever hope Trump’s words held out for the law should probably be considered dashed by the news Monday night that he has selected Georgia Rep. Tom Price to serve as the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Currently the chair of the House Budget Committee, Price has been one of the most ardent opponents of Obamacare in Congress and is one of the few Republicans who has gone beyond simple calls for repeal of the law to develop actual alternative proposals.
An orthopedic surgeon, Price is among the most politically and socially conservative members of Congress. He associates himself with the Tea Party movement and has served as the head of the conservative Republican Study Committee.
In a statement released early Tuesday morning, Trump said, “Chairman Price, a renowned physician, has earned a reputation for being a tireless problem solver and the go-to expert on healthcare policy, making him the ideal choice to serve in this capacity.” He said Price is “exceptionally qualified to shepherd our commitment to repeal and replace Obamacare and bring affordable and accessible healthcare to every American.”
Calling the nomination “an honor,” Price said, “I am humbled by the incredible challenges that lay ahead and enthusiastic for the opportunity to be a part of solving them on behalf of the American people.”
Price’s own plan for an Obamacare replacement, the Empowering Patients First Act, combines long-time conservative policy preferences in an attempt to create a more market-based system for delivering healthcare. The proposal would offer tax credits to offset the cost of purchasing health insurance policies and would provide funding to the individual states to subsidize a “high-risk pool” for people whose health status makes them ineligible for typical health insurance programs.
The Price plan would allow business and professional associations to form large insurance pools that could offer coverage to their members, and would also allow insurance companies to sell policies across state lines. Price has also called for restrictions on medical malpractice lawsuits and has proposed changes to the way doctors deliver care to Medicare-eligible patients, potentially allowing them to charge more than the plan allows.
Price’s nomination is certain to raise protests from multiple interest groups across the country. His strong stance against abortion puts Price at odds with many groups that support a woman’s right to choose to end a pregnancy. (He has voted in favor of laws that include exceptions for rape, incest, and an immediate threat to the life of the mother.)
Price is also an opponent of gay rights, and for several years running, his voting record has received a score of zero from the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for homosexual equality.