February 10, 2017 — Rep. Tom Price was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the new secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by a 52-47 vote early Friday morning.
The Georgia representative, a former orthopedic surgeon, will now be the leader of a department with a reported annual budget of more than $1 trillion. He is expected to be a strong ally for President Donald Trump in repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
He will be the first physician to lead HHS since 1993, according to the New York Times.
Price’s selection by President Donald Trump was hotly contested by Senate Democrats led by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon. They expressed concern about Price’s desire to roll back the Medicare and Medicaid programs, potentially impacting insurance coverage for millions of Americans. During his tenure as chairman of the House Budget Committee, Price backed proposals to shift the financial structure of Medicare from an open-ended commitment to fixed block grants for states to apply as desired.
Opponents also took issue with the congressman actively trading shares he owned in healthcare companies while serving on committees that helped direct healthcare policy.
Price has been one of the more vocal critics of the ACA, and previously authored the ACA-alternative Empowering Patients First Act of 2015. Provisions of the bill include:
- Age-adjusted tax credits to purchase health insurance on the individual market;
- Allowing individuals to opt out of Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare (a U.S. Department of Defense Military Health System program) and VA benefits, and purchase individual health plans with a tax credit;
- Incentives for participating in health savings accounts; and
- Eliminating regulations that forbid the sale of insurance policies across state lines.
President Trump has previously promised that he will not roll back Medicare.
For more information: www.hhs.gov