Trump names Obamacare critic to overhaul US health system
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US president-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday named an outspoken critic of Obamacare to head up the country’s health and human services, a decision Democrats fear could undo years of hard-won reforms.
Republican Representative Tom Price, an orthopedic surgeon from Georgia, will be Trump's Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary, and consultant Seema Verma will lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a powerful agency that oversees government health programs and insurance standards.
Trump cast Price and Verma as a "dream team" to help him once he takes office on January 20 with his campaign pledge to repeal Obamacare, Democratic President Barack Obama's signature health law formally known as the Affordable Care Act.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer denounced the choice, calling Price "far out of the mainstream of what Americans want".
"Nominating Congressman Price to be the HHS secretary is akin to asking the fox to guard the hen house," Schumer said.
Of Price, Trump said 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."
Price said there was much work to be done "to ensure we have a healthcare system that works for patients, families, and doctors”.
The 2010 Obamacare law, aimed at expanding health insurance coverage to millions more Americans, triggered a long and bitter fight between the White House and congressional Republicans, who said it created unwarranted government intervention in personal healthcare and private industry.
Trump has said he will replace Obamacare with a plan to give states more control over the Medicaid health plan for the poor and allow insurers to sell plans nationally.
Both positions named by Trump on Tuesday require Senate confirmation, and the Trump administration will need congressional approval to repeal and change the health law.
Price, an early Trump supporter in the US House of Representatives, is chairman of the budget committee. He has long championed a plan of tax credits, expanded health savings accounts and lawsuit reforms to replace Obamacare.
Trump said Verma had decades of experience advising on Medicare and Medicaid policy and helping states navigate complicated healthcare systems.
She worked with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, the governor of Indiana, on a compromise to expand Medicaid coverage for the state's poor with federal funding. The Indiana program requires beneficiaries to make monthly contributions to health savings accounts.
Price campaigned with Trump because he promised to overhaul Obamacare. However, Trump's position on the health insurance program appeared to soften after he met Obama following the hard-fought November 8 election.
Obama has acknowledged the law could use improvements but has credited Obamacare with cutting the number of uninsured Americans from 49 million in 2010 to 29 million in 2015. Much of that drop is due to the law's provision allowing states to expand Medicaid.
Trump said he would consider keeping provisions in the law that let parents keep adult children up to age 26 on insurance policies and bar insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
US House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has touted House Republicans' plan to replace Obamacare, praised the selection of Price, saying: "We could not ask for a better partner to work with Congress to fix our nation's healthcare challenges."
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP)