Trump picks Price, Verma as heads of HHS, CMS: 9 things to know

President-elect Donald Trump is nominating a "dream team" to lead the top federal healthcare agencies. Rep. Tom Price, MD, R-Ga., chairman of the House Budget Committee, is Mr. Trump's official pick for secretary of HHS, and Seema Verma, president, CEO and founder of health policy consultancy SVC, is his nomination for CMS administrator.

"Together, Chairman Price and Seema Verma are the dream team that will transform our healthcare system for the benefit of all Americans," Mr. Trump said in a statement.

Here are nine things to know about Mr. Trump's healthcare nominations.

1. Rep. Price, 62, has 20 years of experience in private practice as an orthopedic surgeon. He would be the first physician to head HHS since Louis Sullivan, MD, who led the department under President George H. W. Bush between 1989 and 1993.

Rep. Price served as an assistant professor at Atlanta-based Emory University School of Medicine and medical director of the Orthopedic Clinic at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. Rep. Price earned his medical degree from Ann Arbor-based University of Michigan and completed his residency at Emory University.

2. Rep. Price got his start in Washington in 2004 after serving in the Georgia State Senate. He now serves as chair of the House Budget Committee, with past experience as chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee and chairman of the Republican Study Committee. As a member of the Tea Party Caucus, Rep. Price is politically conservative on most issues. He is a "fierce opponent of government waste" who is "devoted to limited government and lower spending," according to a statement from the Trump-Pence transition team.

3. Rep. Price has a clear vision for the repeal and replacement of the ACA. "The problem that I have with Obamacare is that its premise is that Washington knows best," he said in an interview this past summer, according to the Wall Street Journal. He does not feel Washington should be in charge of healthcare.

In 2015, he introduced the Empowering Patients First Act, which would fully repeal the ACA and replace it with a detailed plan that includes individual health pools and expanded health savings accounts. Many of his ideas are also present in the House Republicans' "A Better Way" agenda. Rep. Price has also previously called on President Barack Obama to stop the mandatory demonstration projects under the ACA, according to The New York Times.

"I am humbled by the incredible challenges that lay ahead and enthusiastic for the opportunity to be a part of solving them on behalf of the American people," Rep. Price said in a statement on his nomination as head of HHS. "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."

"This is the absolute perfect choice," House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement. "Tom Price has made health care his life's work."

4. The healthcare industry has reacted favorably to Rep. Price's nomination. Urging the Senate to confirm Rep. Price's nomination, American Medical Association Board Chair Patrice Harris, MD, said in a statement, "The AMA strongly supports the nomination of Dr. Tom Price to become the next Secretary of HHS. His service as a physician, state legislator and member of the U.S. Congress provides a depth of experience to lead HHS." 

AMGA President and CEO Donald Fisher, PhD, also congratulated Rep. Price on his nomination. "We are excited to work with his new team to continue to transition the financing of our healthcare system from volume-based to value-based payment," Dr. Fisher said in an emailed statement.

"Tom Price is an exceptional person and leader who has worked in government and in the private sector," said Scott Becker, publisher of Becker's Healthcare. "He is truly a high-class, wonderful person."

5. However, many Democrats remain skeptical. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told The New York Times choosing Rep. Price to oversee healthcare "is akin to asking the fox to guard the henhouse." In a statement, Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said the pick "poses a grave threat to women's health" citing several issues and noting that repeal of the ACA could void no-copay birth control for 55 million women.

6. Seema Verma, 46, was chosen as CMS administrator for her experience in advising on Medicare and Medicaid policy. Ms. Verma is credited with designing the Healthy Indiana Plan, Indiana's consumer-directed Medicaid program under Gov. Mitch Daniels, and for updating it under Mr. Pence's governorship. She has helped other conservative states roll out similar models, according to The Wall Street Journal. After the ACA passed in 2010, she led health reform in Indiana, working with state agencies to interpret regulatory changes.

"I am honored to be nominated by President-elect Trump today," Ms. Verma said in a statement. "I look forward to helping him tackle our nation's daunting healthcare problems in a responsible and sustainable way."

7. Ms. Verma has experience in consulting and public health strategy. Prior to founding SVC, Ms. Verma was vice president of planning for the Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County in Indiana. Before then, she served as director for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials in Washington, D.C. Ms. Verma holds a master's degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

8. Ms. Verma's nomination has also been met with support. Bruce Siegel, MD, President and CEO of America's Essential Hospitals said in a statement that Ms. Verma "offers a deep understanding of healthcare delivery and policymaking and can contribute an important state-level perspective on Medicaid, insurance, and public health. We are especially proud of her accomplishments as a graduate of the association's Fellows Program." Ms. Verma is also a graduate of the Richard G. Lugar Excellence in Public Services Series and was chosen to join the American Enterprise Institute Leadership Network.

9. Both picks still need to be confirmed by the Senate. Once the nominations move to the full Senate, a simple majority vote is required to secure their spots. Hearings will likely begin in early January, according to ABC News. The picks will be confirmed once Mr. Trump takes office.

 

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