Trump signals he’s serious on ObamaCare repeal

Trump signals he’s serious on ObamaCare repeal
© Greg Nash

By picking Georgia Rep. Tom Price as his point man on healthcare, Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDem senator says Zelensky was 'feeling the pressure' to probe Bidens 2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Trump calls latest impeachment hearings 'a great day for Republicans' MORE calmed conservatives who have been concerned about the president-elect’s commitment to overturning ­ObamaCare.

Trump’s announcement on Tuesday that he wanted Price to be secretary of Health and Human Services suggests the president-elect is serious about repealing ­ObamaCare.

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“Most people we were working with were 8 out of 10 on repealing ­ObamaCare. He [Price] was 10 out of 10. Every waking moment,” said a source who worked with Price during the time he chaired the ultraconservative Republican Study Committee (RSC).

Trump’s transition team also used the announcement to signal its intentions on the healthcare law.

Speaking on a conference call Tuesday, Trump spokesman Jason Miller said the Trump administration could potentially begin taking “certain actions” to repeal and replace ­ObamaCare “as soon as day one.”

“Dr. Price is exceptionally qualified to help shepherd our commitment to this task,” he said.

Price, an orthopedic surgeon and six-term congressman, has been on a mission to destroy ­ObamaCare since the minute it was enacted during Obama’s first term. He has the policy command, and connections both on Capitol Hill and within the conservative movement, to give him a good chance of getting it done.

The source who worked with Price on the Republican Study Committee described him as a “total workhorse” who got involved in the details of RSC work.

Late into the night, Price would edit, line by line, Microsoft Word documents or press releases that his staff was producing.

“It was as if he was the staffer, going through the documents,” the source said.

“He’s very much the late-night guy,” the source added. “If you had a choice to meet him at 7 a.m. or 10 p.m., he’d take 10 p.m.”

Ellen Carmichael, who worked as Price’s press secretary during Obama’s second term, said the congressman’s steeliness should not be underestimated simply because he’s not the most bombastic or attention-seeking member of Congress.

“He’s as ideologically conservative as you can get,” she told The Hill, “but he’s also strategic and a good team player in a way that some of his colleagues might not be.”

A former senior aide to Price in his congressional office agreed with the RSC source that Price’s work ethic is relentless. “I’d leave the office late at night and get to work in the morning and I’d have articles on my desk with a sticky note saying ‘act,’ ” the source said.

The former aide to Price predicted that as secretary he would pursue ­ObamaCare’s destruction come hell or high water.

“He’s not the kind of person who’s going to get run over on something like this,” the source said. “He’s made very clear what his position is and there’s no way he’s going to back down. He’s very much rooted in principles.”

Two senior Trump transition sources with direct knowledge of Price’s selection process said the congressman impressed Trump in his interview and established himself immediately as the leading candidate for the position.

“It was pretty clear he was the right pick from the start,” one of the transition sources told The Hill.

The Trump transition source added that people should pay attention to Trump’s other healthcare appointment on Tuesday morning: Seema Verma, who was nominated to administer the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Verma, the CEO of SVC, Inc., a national health policy consulting company, will be the Trump administration’s point woman when it comes to dealing with Medicare and Medicaid. Like Price, she’s close to Vice President-elect Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceTrump cannot gaslight his way out of impeachment The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Vindman defends witnesses from 'cowardly' attacks at third day of hearings READ: Jennifer Williams's opening statement in impeachment hearing MORE, Indiana’s governor. In Pence’s state, she helped redesign the Medicaid expansion under ­ObamaCare to include conservative twists like making enrollees pay premiums.

“She’ll be driving [Medicaid] block granting to the states,” added the Trump transition source, speaking of a longtime Republican idea to shift more power to the states that Democrats warn would lead to cuts for Medicaid beneficiaries.

Price and Trump are united in their opposition to ­ObamaCare, but the details of what to replace it with remain unresolved.

Trump has not taken a clear position on a replacement, suggesting after the election that ­ObamaCare could be “amended” rather than fully repealed and replaced.

But the selection of Price puts his administration more in line with House Republicans, who have called for fully repealing the law and replacing it with their “Better Way” plan, which Price worked on alongside Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFormer Speaker Boehner's official portrait unveiled Krystal Ball issues warning to Biden supporters Saagar Enjeti: Crenshaw's conservatism will doom future of GOP MORE (R-Wis.).

Trump wants to allow people under age 26 to stay on their parents’ plans and to protect people with pre-existing conditions from insurer discrimination.

Price and House Republicans agree those areas should be addressed, but the question is how to work out the details of how that could be done in a GOP plan.

The Better Way plan, which remains an outline rather than a detailed bill, would provide tax credits to help people afford insurance and protect people with pre-existing conditions when they are switching from one plan to another.

Democrats, though, say that is less protection than ­ObamaCare, which also protects people with pre-existing conditions when they are uninsured and signing up for coverage for the first time.

If anyone can pick their way through these complexities, however, it’s probably Price, according to prominent conservatives committed to overturning the law.

“Congressman Price has consistently helped lead the effort to repeal and roll back ­ObamaCare,” said Tim Phillips, the president of the Koch network’s leading grassroots organization, Americans for Prosperity.

The Koch network, a conservative donor network led by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, is deeply invested in getting rid of ­ObamaCare.

“We are confident he will do the same in his new role,” Phillips told The Hill on Tuesday following the Price announcement. “His selection is encouraging.”