Outstanding Pick: Why Conservatives Should Be Thrilled By Trump's HHS Nominee

Posted: Nov 29, 2016 2:05 PM

As Cortney relayed last night as the news was breaking, President-Elect Donald Trump has selected Rep. Tom Price, MD -- a Georgia Republican -- to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services. This is exceptionally good news, representing perhaps Trump's strongest pick to date. On the heels of hapless, Obamacare-tainted HHS chiefs Kathleen Sebelius and Sylvia Burwell, Price will be a breath of fresh air, if confirmed.  Conservatives should celebrate and support his nomination for three principal reasons:

(1) Price hasn't merely been a vocal Obamacare critic, as many news accounts are describing him. He has, of course, forcefully objected to the failing law at every stage of its introduction and implementation -- but he's gone far beyond lip service, pursuing constructive ends. While Democrats asserted (always  falsely) that the GOP was offering no viable alternative to their disastrous partisan scheme (Obama still repeats this lie), Price was at the forefront of proposing detailed, thoughtful legislation to that very end. He has spent a lot of time thinking about how uproot Obamacare and supplant it with something much better for doctors and consumers. And he's translated that thought into meaningful action and actual legislative language. Philip Klein writes at the Washington Examiner that Price will be prepared on day one to start working hand-in-glove with House Speaker Paul Ryan to traverse the important path to 'repeal and replace:'

Price told me unequivocally that reforming the system has to start with fully repealing Obamacare: "It needs to be fully repealed, because the first step out of the gate for Obamacare is a step in the wrong direction and that is for government control over every aspect of health care, so it's hard to fix the system that they have put in place without ending that premise that government ought to be running and controlling health care." At the same time, in contrast to some conservatives, Price told me, "Coverage is important, and our bill, the 'Empowering Patients First Act,' we believe provides not just an incentive, but the financial feasibility for every single American to purchase the coverage that they want." He added that "the system doesn't work if people aren't covered." ... Price's plan was very similar to the House Republican plan promoted by Ryan, and as Budget Committee chair, Price embraced Ryan's proposals to block grant Medicaid to states and transition Medicare to a system where seniors would use subsidies to choose among competing private plans. During the campaign, Trump was an opponent of significant entitlement reform, but along with Ryan, an HHS secretary Price would be another voice in his ear arguing in favor of a major overhaul. All of these grand plans, of course, are just ideas until they grapple with political realities. But given what a blank slate Trump is on healthcare policy, the Price choice would give us the best indication yet of where the administration may be heading.

The one-two punch (executed in "lightning strike" fashion?) of a legislative maneuver will be logistically and politically challenging, a reality that conservatives must not diminish or overlook. The good news is that Trump's point person on healthcare and the powerful Speaker of the House have labored for years thinking through these questions in granular depth. That's a very encouraging sign.

(2) Price succeeded Ryan as House Budget Committee chairman, which speaks both to his institutional knowledge, as well as his intimate familiarity with the 'dollars and cents' aspects of fixing the mess Obama's Democrats created. He is a budgetary debt hawk who is under no illusions about the fiscal trajectory of the country. This broader perspective will help inform his work as HHS Secretary when it comes to Obamacare replacement and other healthcare-related reforms Republicans may seek to install. Here is Price delivering a major policy speech at the Heritage Foundation on the increasingly urgent need for entitlement reform two years ago:

This is a serious man who understands the serious fiscal trials that face our nation. And he can communicate about them clearly and sensibly.

(3) On a personal level, Price is an orthopedic surgeon who can draw on his vast experience of actually treating patients in order to help convey the policy ideas the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans will roll out. Having a doctor at the helm isn't necessarily requirement in this job, but it surely doesn't hurt. Especially if he or she is likable and eloquent MD like price.  Also, having spoken to a handful of Price alumni on Capitol Hill, it's safe to say that he's is widely beloved by his staff. He's described as a great person for whom to work, and in general. One doesn't have to be popular among one's employees to be an effective leader, but the ability to earn respect and devotion is a desirable quality, and is at least a partial indicator of character. I'll leave you with my mention of Dr. Price on Fox this morning during a wider conversation about how Trump's cabinet is shaping up, ahead of this evening's anticipated dinner with Mitt Romney. Via Right Sightings: