President-elect Donald Trump announced Tuesday that Rep. Tom Price, a Republican from Georgia, is his pick for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
“Chairman Price, a renowned physician, has earned a reputation for being a tireless problem solver and the go-to expert on health care policy, making him the ideal choice to serve in this capacity,” Trump said in a statement. “He is exceptionally qualified to shepherd our commitment to repeal and replace Obamacare and bring affordable and accessible health care to every American.”
If confirmed, Price, a leading critic of the Affordable Care Act, will take over the Department of Health and Human Services as Republicans prepare to send a bill repealing Obamacare to the president-elect’s desk in the first days of Trump’s administration.
“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 said in a statement. “There is much work to be done to ensure we have a health care system that works for patients, families, and doctors; that leads the world in the cure and prevention of illness; and that is based on sensible rules to protect the well-being of the country while embracing its innovative spirit.”
In addition to nominating Price, Trump also tapped Seema Verma for administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Verma runs a health policy firm and worked closely with Vice President-elect Mike Pence in Indiana.
There, Verma crafted Pence’s Medicaid expansion plan, called Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0, and worked on expansion proposals in other Republican-led states.
The Department of Health and Human Services will play a critical role in the Trump administration, with the Price-led agency overseeing not only the repeal of the health care law, but also implementation of a replacement plan.
Congressional Republicans have signaled they’re prepared to send a bill rolling back Obamacare to Trump following his Jan. 20 inauguration, and Trump promised voters during the campaign he would get rid of the health care law.
Price currently serves as chairman of the House Budget Committee. He, along with his counterpart in the Senate, endorsed a plan to pass two budget resolutions—one for 2017 and one for 2018—next year.
Doing so would allow the GOP-led Congress to use a budget tool called reconciliation to tackle two legislative priorities, which would need a simple majority to pass the Senate.
In previous interviews, Price said he would like to see Republicans use reconciliation to repeal Obamacare and reform Medicare. The Georgia congressman’s committee is responsible for crafting the budget resolutions that include reconciliation instructions.
Price was the first Republican to craft a replacement plan for Obamacare. He unveiled the Empowering Patients First Act in 2009 and has introduced the proposal in each Congress since then.
The proposal repeals the Affordable Care Act and replaces it with what Price said are “patient-centered solutions.”
The plan also creates a system of tax credits based on a consumer’s age. It further calls for the creation of high-risk pools at the state level and allows people to opt out of Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, and benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Those who opt out of the federally-run programs could then purchase health insurance in the individual market and qualify for a tax credit.
Price, who was first elected to Congress in 2004, has become known for his health care credentials in his years on Capitol Hill. An orthopedic surgeon for nearly 20 years, he’ll be the first Department of Health and Human Services secretary with a medical background since Louis Wade Sullivan, who served under President George H.W. Bush, according to Modern Healthcare.
Trump and Price are in agreement on several programs the Department of Health and Human Services oversees. Both the president-elect and the Georgia Republican support creating block grants for Medicaid and allowing insurance companies to sell policies across state lines.
But Price supports Medicare reform and said earlier this month House Republicans would make it a priority in the 115th Congress.
The Budget Committee chairman favors changing Medicare from a “defined benefit” to a “defined contribution,” which means the government would give those eligible for the program financial assistance to purchase a private insurance plan.
Trump, meanwhile, said in the past he would protect Medicare and wouldn’t commit to privatizing the program, a reform supported by House Speaker Paul Ryan.
During the campaign, Price emerged as an early supporter of Trump. In May, he and eight Republican committee chairs released a statement endorsing the real estate giant.
The Georgia Republican also campaigned with Trump in the week leading up to the election, appearing alongside him at an Obamacare repeal event in Pennsylvania.
In addition to serving as the chairman of the Budget Committee, Price also sits on the Ways and Means Committee and is one of 18 members of the GOP Doctors Caucus.
He previously served as chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee and led the Republican Study Committee, a group of the House’s conservative members, during the 111th Congress.
Before his election to Congress, Price served four terms in the Georgia state Senate and became majority leader when Republicans took over the upper chamber. He also served two terms as the state Senate’s minority whip.
In addition to working as an orthopedic surgeon, Price taught at Emory University School of Medicine and was the medical director of the orthopedic clinic at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.
Price and his wife live in Roswell, Georgia, and have one son.