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Trump Picks Rep. Tom Price To Head Health And Human Services


President-elect Trump made his choice for the nation's top health official. Representative Tom Price of Georgia goes to the Department of Health and Human Services, if confirmed. He's a doctor and a congressman who led efforts to repeal Obamacare. Tevi Troy knows him. In the George W. Bush administration, Troy worked in the department that Price would lead. He comes to us via Skype from Israel. Welcome to the program.

TEVI TROY: Thanks for having me, Steve.

INSKEEP: And what's Tom Price like?

TROY: Tom Price is a smart doctor who understands the health care system but also understands the legislative process. So I think he is a good pick to be President-elect Trump's secretary of Health and Human Services.

INSKEEP: And this is important why? Because the director of HHS would actually have a role in crafting replacement legislation for Obamacare?

TROY: Yes. Ideally, the secretary would be involved with this. If you recall, in the Obama administration, they wanted to pick Senator Daschle, who I think would have been a smart pick in terms of getting the Obamacare law through the legislative process. The Daschle pick didn't work out, and I think they were scrambling from then on to develop the right relationships with Capitol Hill. I think Congressman Price will have the right relationships. And he's been working on replacement plans since 2009, so I think he's really a good pick.

INSKEEP: OK, let's talk about replacement plans here because we've had a number of people on the program - Republicans - who have conceded that you can't just repeal Obamacare. It benefits far too many people. You need a replacement that does many of the same things. Is Tom Price in agreement with that, do you think?

TROY: I would think he's in agreement. The key idea with replacing the Affordable Care Act is that you need to reduce the cost of health care so as to incentivize people to purchase health care on their own. It is unlikely that anyone is going to outbid Democrats - anyone on the Republican side is going to outbid Democrats in terms of how much they offer in subsidies. That's not the idea. The idea is to bring down costs by some of the smart ideas that have been in Tom Price's plans that will make it easier for people to purchase health care.

INSKEEP: Would Tom Price's plan, so far as you know, include popular parts of Obamacare - for example, the guarantee that you can't be shut out of insurance because of a pre-existing condition?

TROY: I know he addresses pre-existing conditions, also talks specifically about high-risk pools. I know some Republican plans have talked about you can stay - you don't have that problem of pre-existing conditions if you maintain continuous coverage. That was part of the Romney plan, for example. But Price also focuses on reducing price and reducing costs in terms of allowing purchase across state lines, a development of health savings accounts.

He's talked about association health plans so people can purchase health care not necessarily through their employer but in many ways. But you also have to remember that 177 million Americans do get their health care through employers, and that remains an important part of the system. And I know he's aware of that part of the system.

INSKEEP: This has been just about the most partisan part of domestic policy. But, Tevi Troy, in a few seconds, do you think we could be at a moment where there might be a less partisan approach to health care?

TROY: I would hope so. Look, the Affordable Care Act passed with only Democratic votes. To get this through, you're going to need to have a mix of votes on both sides of the aisle, and I look forward to seeing that.

INSKEEP: OK, Tevi Troy, a former official in the Department of Health and Human Services in the George W. Bush Administration. Thanks for joining us.

TROY: Thank you.

INSKEEP: And he came to us via Skype. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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