Trump Tabs Fiscal, Social Conservatives To Run U.S. Health Agencies

Xconomy National — 

Two big pieces of the Trump healthcare puzzle have fallen into place. The President-elect’s transition team has nominated Georgia Republican congressman Tom Price to be Health and Human Services secretary. It has also tabbed Indiana health consultant Seema Verma to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

In a statement, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman who has helped usher the biomedical omnibus package 21st Century Cures Act to the brink of a Congressional vote this week, called Price, an orthopedic surgeon, a “brilliant choice.” Price has been a leading critic of the Affordable Care Act and has crafted conservative alternatives in the House of Representatives, where he has been a member of the Georgia delegation since 2004. If confirmed, he would oversee the department that houses the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Medicare and Medicaid programs. It has a $1 trillion budget.

Sasha Bruce, senior vice president of the women’s health advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice issued a statement that called Price “an incredibly alarming pick” because of his anti-abortion legislative work.

Price has also opposed federal requirements that insurers cover contraception, but as a Georgia state senator he voted in favor of in-state requirements, according to the Wall Street Journal. The difference, he said, was federal control versus state rights.

Verma has worked on Indiana’s healthcare plans under two governors, including Vice President-elect Mike Pence. In a 2014 profile, the Indianapolis Star called her “Indiana’s go-to health care consultant” and reported that she and her consulting company, SVC, had received $3.5 million in state contracts. The article also raised questions about conflicts of interest, with Verma working both for the state and for a private contractor.

She helped craft Indiana’s “Healthy Indiana Plan” for the state’s uninsured citizens. The experience is significant because total dismantling of the Affordable Care Act, which Trump and the Republican Congress are poised to do, would also rescind coverage for millions of people who otherwise would have no insurance.

Photo of the Department of Health and Human Services headquarters in Washington, DC, courtesy of Tim Evanson via Creative Commons.