- Early this morning, the Senate approved Tom Price as the new Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary by a 52 to 47 vote, according to multiple sources. Price, a Republican representative from Georgia, will be the first provider to hold the position since President Bush Senior’s first administration.
The former orthopedic surgeon will now be charged with managing the federal health department’s $1 trillion annual budget. He will also work with policymakers and healthcare stakeholders as they debate a potential Affordable Care Act repeal.
President Trump reiterated his intentions to motivate a “prompt repeal” of the healthcare reform law in a January executive order calling for more Affordable Care Act flexibilities. Price has similarly expressed interests in an Affordable Care Act repeal.
“We believe we can and should repeal the ACA [Affordable Care Act] and replace it with commonsense, patient-centered reforms, which is why several of our members have written comprehensive proposals to do just that,” wrote Price and two other House Representatives in October 2016.
“Simply put, we believe the reforms we are advancing would make it so every American would have the financial wherewithal and incentive to purchase the coverage that they want for themselves, not the high-cost coverage mandated by the ACA that patients have been forced to purchase under threat of a tax penalty,” they added.
In the same opinion piece, Price also voiced support for increasing health savings accounts use, providing financial assistance to individuals for health coverage, and reducing barriers that prevent individual and small businesses to collaborate to buy health insurance.
Price added that he supports protecting health coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions. Healthcare cover protections was ranked as the top Affordable Care Act component favored to stay under a potential repeal by primary care providers and healthcare executives.
As HHS Secretary, Price will also have the authority to introduce Medicare and Medicaid changes. The new federal health department head previously endorsed moving to a block grant system for Medicaid.
Rather than the current open-ended entitlement system, a possible block grant system would give states a fixed amount from the federal government. States would use the grant to provide healthcare services to Medicaid-covered individuals.
The block grant method may give states more flexibility with deciding who and what should be covered by the state’s Medicaid program.
He has also gone on record endorsing proposals that would modify Medicare to a fixed government contribution for each beneficiary. Medicare currently functions as open-ended commitment to cover healthcare services.
Additionally, Price will oversee CMS activities as HHS Secretary, including the federal agency’s push to implement value-based reimbursement. During his time as Georgia’s representative, Price has questioned the federal agency’s authority to impose alternative payment models on providers.
In an October 2016 letter to CMS, Price partnered with several other representatives urge CMS to stop overstepping its authority by mandating Medicare provider participation in some alternative payment models. For example, CMS made the Comprehensive Joint Replacement and Cardiac bundled payment models compulsory for some providers in select regions.
Price also stated that he intends to further investigate the final MACRA implementation rule. In an October 2016 press release, Price said he is “deeply concerned about how this rule could affect the patient-doctor relationship” and he looks “forward to carefully reviewing it in the coming days to determine whether the Administration has addressed those concerns and put the interests of patients first.”
The new HHS Secretary, however, has not released any statements on how he plans to proceed with the CMS value-based reimbursement transition.