President-elect Donald Trump has assembled his healthcare dream team: Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., a longtime critic of the Affordable Care Act but champion of health IT legislation that reduces the burden on physicians, is his pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. And he selected Seema Verma, founder and CEO of consulting firm SVC Inc., to serve as administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Price, a representative from Georgia’s 6th Congressional District and chairman of the House Budget Committee, supported Trump throughout his candidacy, arguing that the healthcare reform law had “destroyed” the healthcare system.
Indeed, The Washington Post notes that he was a leader in Republican opposition to the ACA and worked on several comprehensive bills to replace it.
“Chairman Price, a renowned physician, has earned a reputation for being a tireless problem solver and the go-to expert on healthcare policy, making him the ideal choice to serve in this capacity,” said President-elect Trump in a statement.
“He is exceptionally qualified to shepherd our commitment to repeal and replace Obamacare and bring affordable and accessible healthcare to every American. I am proud to nominate him as Secretary of Health and Human Services.”
Trump said Verma is his choice for CMS administrator because she has "decades of experience advising on Medicare and Medicaid policy and helping states navigate our complicated systems."
If both positions are confirmed, Trump said, Price and Verma would be "the dream team that will transform our healthcare system for the benefit of all Americans.”
Price said in a statement that he was "humbled" by the nomination and the challenges ahead. "There is much work to be done to ensure we have a healthcare 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," he said.
Reaction splits along party lines
Unsurprisingly, reaction to Trump’s choice for the next HHS secretary split along party lines. While House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., said in a Twitter post that Price is the “absolute perfect choice for HHS secretary," incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement to media outlets that Price doesn’t represent what Americans want when it comes to Medicare, the ACA and Planned Parenthood.
"Thanks to those three programs, millions of American seniors, families, people with disabilities and women have access to quality, affordable health care. Nominating Congressman Price to be the HHS secretary is akin to asking the fox to guard the hen house," he said.
In addition to dismantling President Barack Obama’s signature legislation, Forbes reports that Price could slow the healthcare industry’s transition to value-based care. The 62-year-old orthopedic surgeon has opposed Medicare’s mandatory bundled payment initiatives for hip and knee replacements. He has also criticized the implementation of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act.
However, Price has also been vocal on health IT issues in Congress, according to Politico, which noted that he pushed for a doctor-friendly version of the law regulating the use of electronic health records. The American Medical Association issued a statement this morning supporting his nomination. “Dr. Price has been a leader in the development of health policies to advance patient choice and market-based solutions as well as reduce excessive regulatory burdens that diminish time devoted to patient care and increase costs,” the AMA stated.
Price also filed unsuccessful legislation to prevent HHS from forcing physicians to use ICD-10 codes prior to the new code set’s implementation last year, according to Medscape.
Verma looks forward to tackling nation's "daunting healthcare problems"
Verma said she was honored by the nomination and looks forward "to helping him tackle our nation’s daunting healthcare problems in a responsible and sustainable way."
The Indiana resident has close ties to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, according to her bio, and designed Pence's Medicaid expansion plan, known as Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0, and also worked with other states including Kentucky, Iowa, and Ohio on their Medicaid expansion proposals.
Before she became a consultant, Verma worked as vice president of planning for the Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County, Indiana, and as the director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials in the District of Columbia.