STATEMENT OF ROBERT RESTUCCIA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY CATALYST, ON THE NOMINATIONS OF GEORGIA REP. TOM PRICE AS SECRETARY OF HHS AND SEEMA VERMA AS HEAD OF CMS
(BOSTON) – “In nominating Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) as Secretary of HHS and Seema Verma as head of CMS, President-elect Trump is handing government oversight of the American health system to two individuals who have a history of pursuing health care initiatives that are harmful to the most vulnerable members of society. They seem to hold little esteem for the gains made by the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the 22 million Americans who finally have access to health care.
“During the campaign, President-elect Trump said ‘…there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid’ because ‘There are people who say everybody should have a great, wonderful, private plan, and if you can’t afford that… then those people don’t get taken care of. That’s wrong. We’re going to take care of that through the Medicaid system’ and ‘[Medicare is] actually a program that’s worked.’ However, the president-elect’s nominations of both Price and Verma run directly counter to these promises.
“Representative Price is a fierce opponent of the Affordable Care Act and has voted dozens of times to repeal the law and the paltry replacement plans he has offered would hurt those who can least afford it: those who are older, lower-income and sicker. Price has endorsed a plan that would cause millions of Americans to be stripped of their coverage, plunged into medical debt and returned to the days when insurance companies could deny them coverage based on their health.
“Additionally, Price has expressed strong support for Speaker Ryan’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program that would require enrollees to purchase plans on the private market and favors allowing physicians to balance bill Medicare beneficiaries. This would gut Medicare – an enormously popular program that provides health and financial security to millions of older adults – and dramatically shifts the cost of care to those who can least afford it.
“CMS nominee Seema Verma has a history of working on Medicaid waivers that include elements that are particularly harmful to and punitive toward low-income people, such as charging significant premiums and penalizing some who aren’t able to pay by locking them out of coverage for up to six months. A large body of research demonstrates that premiums and unreasonable cost-sharing requirements impede access to coverage and needed health care services and can lead to increased medical debt, especially for low-income people. If Verma pursues these policies, it could mean fewer people will get the care they need. These policies conflict with the underlying objectives of the Medicaid program.
“We’ve made huge strides over the past eight years in making it possible for people to get affordable access to care, and be healthier as a result. We are disappointed that the president-elect’s health care team appears committed to undoing that progress and undermining programs Mr. Trump promised to protect during his campaign. We can’t afford to go backward.”
About Community Catalyst
Community Catalyst is a national, non-profit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1998 with the belief that affordable, quality health care should be accessible to everyone. We work in partnership with national, state and local organizations, policymakers, and philanthropic foundations to ensure consumer interests are represented wherever important decisions about health and the health system are made: in communities, courtrooms, statehouses and on Capitol Hill. For more information, visit www.communitycatalyst.org. Read our blog at http://blog.communitycatalyst.org. Follow us on Twitter @healthpolicyhub.