President-elect Donald Trump has selected House Budget Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., as his nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services, according to multiple reports.
Price, 62, is a former orthopedic surgeon and favorite of conservatives who has been a fierce critic of the 2010 health care law. Republicans, including Trump, have made repeal of the law and passage of replacement legislation a top priority for next year. As HHS secretary, Price would likely have a large amount of influence over the creation of a new system.
The nomination of Price would open the position of House Budget chairman next year, requiring the House Republican Conference to appoint a successor for a job that will be at the center of GOP efforts to reshape spending programs in the next Congress. Price probably would not be replaced until after his likely confirmation next year.
The Health and Human Services Department oversees the Medicare and Medicaid programs, as well as the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health and has about 77,500 full-time employees.
Price has said he was drawn to politics because he felt lawmakers wielded too much power over his actions as a doctor. He has introduced a plan to repeal the health law that takes a similar approach to the route outlined in Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s “Better Way” agenda, but with some important differences. Price’s legislation, for example, would provide just $3 billion in grants to states to help cover those individuals with pre-existing conditions and others that would be covered by a high-risk pool. Ryan’s plan would provide $25 billion.
Many lobbyists and aides expect Republicans would include in the repeal a transition period to give individuals on the current insurance exchanges time to get new coverage. The HHS secretary would have broad authority over how to phase out the current system, including not enforcing a coverage mandate which requires individuals to have health insurance.
Republicans are also likely to try to make changes to Medicare next session. Staffers for House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, are already working on drafting legislation on the issue. Price, at the helm of HHS, would likely have ample influence over what those changes would be.
Several physician groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Dermatology, are Price’s largest campaign donors, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
The Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee are expected to hold hearings on the nomination early next year.