Will Medicare change under Trump? Meet the HHS and CMS Nominees

December 10, 2016

By: Howard Bedlin, NCOA’s Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy. Originally published on our parent nonprofit ncoa.org

President-elect Donald Trump has announced his nominees to lead the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Both candidates will need to be confirmed by the Senate. Here’s what we know about each of them.

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), HHS Secretary Nominee

Tom Price is Trump’s pick for the head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). He is an orthopedic surgeon, former Georgia Senate Majority Leader, six-term congressman, and chair of the House Budget Committee. He has been a strong critic of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and has crafted his own alternate plan.

Price’s Empowering Patients First Act (H.R. 2300) would repeal the ACA and offer age-adjusted tax credits for Americans to purchase health insurance. People aged 50+ who are not already on Medicare would receive $3,000 per year to purchase coverage through the individual market.

Last year, Price also introduced a budget proposal that would gradually convert Medicare into a premium support program. Under this model, people with Medicare would no longer have coverage for a defined set of benefits that keeps pace with medical inflation. Instead, they would have a fixed dollar contribution that may not keep pace, which could shift the risk of growing costs onto people with Medicare.

Price’s proposed budget also would cut Medicaid by an estimated $913 billion over 10 years and convert it into a block grant. A block grant structure would provide broad state flexibility that many believe could undermine important federal consumer protections.

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) and other aging advocates are concerned that these proposals could have a detrimental impact on older adults, especially those with modest incomes or high health care needs. If enacted, these proposals could reduce access to health care and increase out-of-pocket costs. Taken together, they also would fundamentally restructure how older Americans receive and pay for their health care. For more info, check out this article from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Seema Verma, CMS Administrator Nominee

Seema Verma is Trump’s nominee to lead the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS). She is currently president of SVC, Inc., a health care consulting company that helped Indiana structure its Medicaid expansion program under the ACA.

The Healthy Indiana Plan provides coverage through a high-deductible health plan, paired with a $2,500 contribution that operates like a Health Savings Account (HSA). Coverage is provided through the private market. In a recent blog, Verma stated that the program was “recognized at the time as the most significant departure from traditional Medicaid ever approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).”

Verma worked closely with Vice President-elect Mike Pence on the plan’s second phase when he was Indiana governor. She also has provided technical assistance and advice to Medicaid officials in other states, including Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee, Maine, and Ohio. In 2013, she testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about the need for Medicaid reform.