By tapping House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Price to serve as his Secretary of Health and Human Services, President-elect Trump has added to his team one of the most serious and knowledgeable Republicans on healthcare policy, and in the process pressed his finger on the scales of the internal GOP debate over how specifically to replace Obamacare.
In contrast to many Republicans, who have talked in terms of repealing Obamacare without offering their own vision for the healthcare system, Price, an orthopedic surgeon, has for years been refining his own detailed plan. In fact, he was one of the few Republicans who introduced an alternative bill in 2009, during the actual debate over Obamacare. You can read that version of the "Empowering Patients First Act" in its entirety here.
Given that Trump offered scant details on healthcare during the campaign, Price could have outsized influence on the incoming president's health policy. Price happens to also be close with House Speaker Paul Ryan, who he succeeded as chair of the Budget Committee. Both of the men have similar attitudes on health policy, including overhauling Medicare and Medicaid. During an interview I did with Price for my 2015 book "Overcoming Obamacare," we discussed his basic philosophical approach to replacing the law.
Two things should stand out to those trying to understand the thinking of the next HHS Secretary (assuming Senate confirmation).