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Trump picks Obama law critic Tom Price as health secretary

Published 29/11/2016

Closed-door session: The lift shuts on Tom Price as he arrives at Trump Tower in New York (AP)
Closed-door session: The lift shuts on Tom Price as he arrives at Trump Tower in New York (AP)

US president-elect Donald Trump has selected Georgia congressman Tom Price, a leading critic of Barack Obama's sweeping health care law, to head the Department of Health and Human Services, according to a person familiar with the decision.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mr Price, 62, will play a central role in Republican efforts to repeal and replace the current health care law.

Mr Trump has pledged to move quickly on overhauling the landmark measure, but has been vague about what he hopes to see in a replacement bill.

The president-elect has said he favours keeping provisions that allow young people to stay on their parents' health insurance and prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.

Mr Trump is expected to announce Mr Price's nomination as early as Tuesday, the source said.

Mr Price, a six-term congressman and orthopaedic surgeon, has chaired the House of Representatives' Budget Committee for the past two years.

A bookish conservative from the Atlanta suburbs, he has worked closely with house speaker Paul Ryan to assemble Republican budgets aimed at reducing the annual deficit.

Last week Mr Price said whatever Republicans do to replace Mr Obama's health care law would bear a "significant resemblance" to a 2015 measure vetoed by the president.

That bill would have gutted some of the health care law's main features: Medicaid expansion; subsidies to help middle-class Americans buy private policies; 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.

Mr Price insisted that Republicans could 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.

He said Republicans wanted to address "the real cost drivers" of health care price increases, which he said were not necessarily sicker patients, but a heavy regulatory burden, taxes and lawsuits against medical professionals.

AP

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