Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Trump's cabinet picks: Foxes to guard hen houses

Reported by the Washington Post: Trump names Rep. Tom Price as next HHS secretary. Price is a foe of entitlements - you know, things like Affordable Care (Obamacare), Medicare, and Medicaid.

President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), a fierce critic of the Affordable Care Act and a proponent of overhauling the nation’s entitlement programs, to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.

In a news release early Tuesday, Trump announced his selection of Price, a third-generation doctor who chairs the House Budget Committee and became a champion of Trump’s candidacy. In naming him to join his Cabinet, the president-elect called Price “exceptionally qualified to shepherd our commitment to repeal and replace Obamacare and bring affordable and accessible health care to every American.”

One of the 18 members of the House GOP Doctors Caucus, Price supports major changes to Medicaid and Medicare, health insurance pillars of the Great Society programs of the 1960s. Under his vision, both programs would cease to be entitlements that require them to provide coverage to every person who qualifies. Instead, like many House Republicans, he wants to convert Medicaid into block grants to states — which would give them more latitude from federal requirements about eligibility rules and the medical services that must be covered for low-income Americans. This plan would also require “able-bodied” applicants to meet work requirements to receive health-care benefits — an idea that the Obama administration has consistently rebuffed.

A former chairman of the conservative Republican study committee, Price has been affiliated with the House tea party caucus and has lambasted what he termed a “vile liberal agenda that is threatening everything we hold dear as Americans.” His congressional website describes him as “devoted to limited government and lower spending.”

Some outside groups and watchdogs have warned that such proposals probably would lead to deep cuts for those who use the program. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that at least 14 million people would lose coverage if Congress revokes the Medicaid expansion that has occurred under the ACA.

For Medicare, Price favors another idea long pushed by conservatives, switching it from a “defined benefit” to a “defined contribution.” With that, the government would give older or disabled Americans financial help for them to buy private insurance policies.

And for the rest of us? We’re f#cked.

WAIT! There’s more.

Trump also named Seema Verma, a health-care consultant who was the architect of Medicaid changes in Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s home state of Indiana, to run a crucial section of HHS: the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Trump is expected to name hedge fund manager (and campaign treasurer) Steve Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary and Elaine Chao as Transportation Secretary. From the Post’s report: “His transportation secretary is likely to be one of the more essential players. Mr. Trump, a real estate magnate, has said that infrastructure redevelopment will be a priority of his first 100 days in office. And Ms. Chao has experience — politically and personally — in navigating the competing centers of power in the capital. She is married to Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader.”

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