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Donald Trump selects Tom Price as secretary of health and human services

Georgia congressman would be expected to play key role in attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Obamas landmark healthcare legislation

Donald Trump has chosen a prominent critic of Obamacare as his secretary of health and human services, casting fresh doubt over the future of the Affordable Care Act.

Congressman Tom Price of Georgia, an orthopedic surgeon who has long been a leading congressional voice in opposition to Barack Obamas healthcare reform legislation, was confirmed on Tuesday as the president-elects pick.

It came at the beginning of a day that vice-president-elect Mike Pence told reporters would produce a number of very important announcements concerning the presidential transition.

In addition, Indiana health policy consultant Seema Verma was chosen to become administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

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 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.

Price said he was 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.

He added: 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.

If confirmed by the Senate, Price is likely to play a key role in attempts by Trump to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 legislation that has become a key issue of partisan contention.

The Georgia congressman had long been considered the favorite to serve as HHS secretary. An ally of Paul Ryan, Price replaced the current speaker as chair of the House budget committee in 2015.

Trump has long made repealing the Affordable Care Act a priority. However, after meeting with Obama earlier in November, the president-elect seemed to strike a more dovish tone on the landmark legislation.

Trump told the Wall Street Journal that Obama recommend parts of the healthcare legislation that should be kept, and I told him I will look at his suggestions, and out of respect, I will do that. He added: Either Obamacare will be amended, or repealed and replaced.

Last week, Price said that whatever Republicans do to replace Obamas healthcare law will bear a significant resemblance to a 2015 measure that was vetoed by the president. That bill would have gutted some of the health care laws main features: Medicaid expansion, subsidies to help middle-class Americans buy private policies, the tax penalties for individuals who refused to get coverage and several taxes to support coverage expansion. The bill would have delayed implementation for two years.

Price insisted that Republicans can keep the protections for those with existing medical conditions without mandating that all individuals carry coverage or pay a penalty to support an expanded insurance pool. Price said Republicans want to address the real cost drivers of healthcare price spikes, which he said were not necessarily sicker patients, but a heavy regulatory burden, taxes and lawsuits against medical professionals.

Price, who was first elected in 2004, represents a prosperous suburban Atlanta district that has been traditionally Republican, and has won re-election easily. However, Trump only narrowly won the district by a 48%-47% margin in November, leaving open the possibility of a competitive special election if Price is confirmed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/28/tom-price-health-human-services-secretary-trump-administration