President-Elect Names HHS, CMS Appointees

As president-elect, Donald Trump has announced his picks to lead both the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) late Monday night. For HHS, Trump chose six-term Georgia Rep. Tom Price (R), formerly an orthopedic surgeon and an outspoken critic of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). To lead CMS, the agency that oversees most ACA programs and pilots, Trump chose Seema Verma, founder of health policy consulting firm SVC Inc., the Associated Press reported.

Price, who has called the ACA “monstrous legislation,” according to the LA Times, was one of the first legislators to offer his own ACA alternative plan, called the Empowering Patients First Act, which would repeal the ACA and provide refundable tax credits for health insurance coverage and health savings account (HSA) contributions.

According to a Modern Healthcare analysis of Price’s plan, it also “would allow people to opt out of Medicare, Medicaid, or Veterans Affairs benefits and receive the tax credit to buy an individual plan. Critics say the plan would fail to keep pace with inflation and force higher out-of-pocket costs like deductibles and co-payments.”

Price has spoken out in favor of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s Medicare and Medicaid reform plan called “A Better Way,” which would drastically alter both programs. As Modern Healthcare notes, Price is somewhat supportive of efforts to pay physicians for quality and outcomes as evidenced by his vote in favor of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), but wants physician reporting components simplified.

Verma was instrumental in crafting the state of Indiana’s healthcare policy under governor and vice president elect Mike Pence. One major component of the Affordable Care Act was expanding Medicaid programs, which are run by each state. Many Republican governors, including Pence, chose to expand Medicaid, but with modifications. In Indiana, applicants must pay a portion of their monthly premium (in other states enrollees do not have to pay premiums), a policy favored by conservatives, but which has mixed outcomes in terms of access to care, the LA Times reported. Verma has a master’s degree in public health with a concentration in health policy and management from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s degree in life sciences from the University of Maryland, Health Data Management reported.

Both appointments require approval from the Senate.

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