CCTS Newsletter Dale Dirks and Dane Christiansen
February 17, 2017
Before adjourning for the President’s Day recess, Senators worked to confirm as many nominees as possible to fill cabinet positions in the Trump administration. This activity included a party-line vote to confirm former Georgia Congressman Tom Price as the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In his new role, Secretary Price will oversee the National Institutes of Health (NIH), other medical research and public health agencies, and Medicare and Medicaid.
Secretary Price is an orthopedic surgeon by trade and, during his time in Congress, he was a vocal opponent of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare). One of his first acts following confirmation was to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding “marketplace stability” designed to close loopholes and address issues in the healthcare exchange market. In perhaps a surprising development given the Secretary’s past criticism of the law, the proposed rule is narrow in scope and stays away from some of the more politicized areas of the ACA.
Since taking office in early January, Republican majorities in Congress have struggled to coalesce around a plan to make good on the campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. The lack of leadership on this topic has led to the emergence of multiple proposals and points of view, which has stymied the overall effort. With Secretary Price now leading HHS, the Republican caucus has some confidence that a unifying strategy will emerge, but serious roadblocks to consensus remain (including passionate opposition to disruptive and regressive proposals from both patient groups and insurance providers).
With Secretary Price in place, new leadership for agencies within HHS will now be considered. While Dr. Francis Collins continues to lead NIH, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other agencies within the public health service are currently awaiting new leadership. Most recently, the Senate started the process to confirm the Trump Administration’s pick to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Seema Verma.