Trump Announces Picks to Lead HHS, CMS
Earlier this week, President-elect Donald Trump tapped Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) to lead the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Indiana-based health care consultant, Seema Verma, as the next administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Congressman Price has been a longtime opponent of the Affordable Care Act and is likely to be a key player in any “repeal and replace” efforts from the 115th Congress.
CONGRESSMAN TOM PRICE
Congressman Tom Price, an orthopedic surgeon and six-term Representative from Georgia, was one of the first Republicans to introduce an alternative to the ACA during health care reform debates in 2009 and 2010. The current Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Price’s reform plan has many similarities to Speaker of House Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) “Better Way” plan released earlier this year. Price’s bill includes traditional GOP ideas such as health savings accounts, high-risk insurance pools, and allowing interstate insurance sales.
In addition to the ACA, Price has also been a leading voice on health IT issues in Congress, fighting for a more provider-friendly version of the meaningful use electronic health record incentive program. Last year, he led an effort to collect 116 signatures from House legislators supporting a slowdown in the process.
Price has indicated that he plans to accept the nomination, saying in a statement that “it is an honor to be nominated to serve our nation as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Thanks to President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect Pence for their confidence.” Leading Democrats, meanwhile, have indicated that Price could face a nomination fight in the Senate next year. “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,” incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement.
Ms. Verma may be best known for her work on Medicaid issues and her close ties to Vice-President-Elect Mike Pence. She designed then-Indiana Governor Pence’s Medicaid expansion model – known as Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 – and has advised several Republican states on how to add conservative elements to their programs, such as health savings accounts and employment requirements.
Over the last several years, Verma has worked on several high-profile Medicaid expansion proposals including in Kentucky, where Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s plan includes a work requirement as a condition of receiving benefits and lockout periods for failure to pay. The Kentucky proposal is heavily modeled off of Indiana’s Medicaid expansion plan.
To date, 31 states and the District of Columbia have expanded the Medicaid program, and many Republican governors have expressed a desire to keep the enhanced federal contribution even as other parts of the ACA are repealed. Verma’s selection could signal an interest from the Trump Administration in offering more flexibility for states to pursue private insurance option models, impose work requirements, and add other conservative elements to the program.
As with the position of HHS Secretary, the position of Administrator of CMS must be confirmed by a majority vote in the Senate in 2017.