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A Surgeon and a CEO Land the Top Health Jobs in Trump’s Administration

Tom Price has been nominated to lead Health and Human Services, while Seema Verma will head Medicaid and Medicare.
November 29, 2016, 4:55pm
Seema Verma, left, and Tom Price. Images: Drew Angerer/Getty Images and Gage Skidmore/Flickr

President-elect Donald Trump's campaign promise to repeal Obamacare became ever more possible Tuesday as he announced his picks for the top healthcare jobs in his cabinet.

Congressman Tom Price (R-Ga.), an orthopedic surgeon, has been selected to be secretary of Health and Human Services, and Seema Verma, the CEO of a health policy consulting firm, was tapped to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Both picks have conservative records that include efforts to restructure or dismantle Obamacare at some level.


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

In his time as a House Representative for Georgia, Price has been a vocal critic of Obamacare, and proposed multiple bills to dismantle the Act, including the Empowering Patients First Act, a piece of legislation that would have repealed and replaced Obamacare.

Price originally called the ACA a "hyperpartisan piece of legislation that will have a disastrous effect on our nation's health care system," and stated that Obamacare has caused premiums to rise and removed choices for many Americans. He's also staunchly pro-life and has received a 0 out of 100 rating from Planned Parenthood for his positions on abortion and reproductive health policy.

Verma, who is less well-known outside of healthcare policy circles, runs a consulting firm called SVC Inc. through which she notably helped Vice President-elect Mike Pence craft state-level alterations to the Affordable Care Act in Indiana. She has also worked with other governors to put conservative stipulations on Medicaid, like a work requirement currently pending in Kentucky, which would strip some Medicaid beneficiaries of their benefits unless they worked or volunteered at least 20 hours a week. Her business also adds her to the list of Trump cabinet members with potential conflicts of interest, in part because she has previously consulted with a branch of Hewlett-Packard that is a Medicaid vendor.

Throughout his campaign and since his election win, Trump has emphasized his commitment to repeal the Affordable Care Act; it's listed as a top priority on his transition team website. But earlier this month, Trump hinted that he might not scrap Obamacare after all, telling the Wall Street Journal that he thought two provisions in the ACA—prohibiting insurers from denying coverage due to preexisting conditions and allowing parents to extend coverage of their children for a few extra years—actually weren't so bad.

"I like those very much," he told the Journal.

But with the appointments of Price and Verma, at least a partial restructuring of Obamacare seems all but inevitable.

These two jobs hold a lot of power, covering everything from the Centers for Disease Control to the Food and Drug Administration, which mean Price and Verma have the ability to make a lot of changes—and possibly do a lot of damage—to an endless list of healthcare institutions. Given their track records, it's not hard to guess where their first target will likely land.