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Trump taps new HHS and CMS leadership

November 29, 2016
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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On Tuesday, President-elect Donald Trump named Rep. Tom Price, MD (R-Ga.), as his choice for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Price is known for his opposition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the introduction of the Empowering Patients First Act to replace ACA.

“We have concerns about the future of the ACA with the appointment of Dr. Tom Price as HHS secretary,” says Ron Manderscheid, PhD, executive director of the National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors and the National Association for Rural Mental Health. “However, we will make every effort to work with Dr. Price to assure that the 21 million persons who have received health insurance under the ACA continue to remain insured and to enjoy the protections afforded by parity requirements for mental health and substance use care. America’s counties strongly support both of these features of the ACA.”

Recent health-plan premium increases will likely be among the specific talking points for Price as HHS looks to establish new policies under the Trump administration.

Price’s proposals

According to his website, Price’s ideas for U.S. healthcare include individual high-risk pools, expanded health savings accounts (HSAs) and tax credits for the purchase of coverage. Age-adjusted tax credits that he previously proposed ranged from $3,000 for those age 50 years and older to $900 per child under age 18. Additionally, a $1,000 tax credit was proposed to incentivize adoption of HSAs.

Several ideas from Price were ultimately folded into “A Better Way,” the healthcare proposal to replace ACA, released in June by House Republicans. Allowing for insurers to sell plans across state lines is also part of  “A Better Way.”

In 2011, Price’s home state of Georgia passed a law allowing residents to buy health insurance from other states, aiming to create a more competitive market. However, no insurer sought to sell an interstate plan product under the model. Observers believe establishing networks and balancing the risk pool could be tricky when plans are sold out of state.

New CMS nominee

On Tuesday, Seema Verma, president of a health policy consulting firm, was also nominated to become the new administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) under HHS. She has previous experience modeling Medicaid programs in several states, including Indiana, working there with Mike Pence, now the vice president-elect, on the state’s ACA-alternative Medicaid expansion. The plan calls for enrollees to make monthly contributions.

Trump has referred to Price and Verma as a “dream team,” according to Reuters. He also has pledged that his administration will give states more control and consumers more choices.