Trump’s excellent pick for HHS secretary is about to catch Hell.
Until a week ago, the adjectives most frequently applied to Georgia Rep. Tom Price were “mild-mannered” and “low-key.” This isn’t surprising. Like his father and his grandfather, he is a physician and thus trained to approach problems in a calm, analytical fashion. However, now that President-elect Trump has picked Price to be his Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Democrats and their accomplices in the media have suddenly discovered that he is a wild-eyed radical, an extremist who will use HHS to launch a “war on seniors,” escalate the “war on women,” and declare “war on the poor.”
They have accused Price of planning so many “wars” on so many fronts that one could be forgiven for thinking that Trump has asked him to be Secretary of Defense. The palpable fear behind all these trite military metaphors is, of course, that Price will work closely with Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare. As Democrat Senator Ron Wyden put it, “Given Chairman Price’s past health proposals, I have grave concerns with what his policies would do to Americans.” What Senator Wyden and his fellow Democrats are really worried about is the loss of their iron grip on our health care system.
And they have good reason for concern. Price has not merely opposed the “Affordable Care Act” since its inception; he has introduced an eminently viable replacement bill. Moreover, even before the law is repealed, Price will make use of the enormous discretion Obamacare grants the Secretary of HHS to reverse the myriad regulatory fiats imposed upon hapless health care providers, insurers, and patients by his predecessors. He can, for example, kill the notorious contraception mandate without an act of Congress. Consequently, the Democrats will use every dirty trick in the book to thwart his confirmation.
They can’t achieve that by citing Price’s opposition to Obamacare because the voters agree with him on that ill-conceived law. To derail his nomination, the Democrats must conjure up scarier hobgoblins with which to frighten the public, including claims that Price wants to privatize Medicare. New York Senator Chuck Schumer called forth that spectre immediately upon learning of Price’s appointment: “Between this nomination of an avowed Medicare opponent, and the House Republicans threatening to privatize Medicare, it is clear that Washington Republicans are plotting a War on Seniors next year.”
This nonsense is based on nothing more sinister than Price’s support of the latest House budget. The claim that it is a dark plot to privatize Medicare was recently debunked by Christopher Jacobs in the Federalist: “The premium support plan included in the House Republican budget includes 1) a federal contribution that increases every year to fund 2) a federally regulated plan with 3) federally mandated benefits and 4) the option to continue in government-run Medicare if beneficiaries so choose.” Not only does this not amount to a “war on seniors,” it’s the only plausible way to keep the Medicare program solvent.
Not that mere facts matter to the Democrats who have, to borrow their favorite metaphor, declared war on Price. Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, who evidently failed to notice that her state just voted Republican in a presidential election for the first time since 1988, issued a statement claiming that Price supports “dismantling Medicare and Medicaid, slashing Social Security, gutting women’s health services, eliminating healthcare for 20 million people and eliminating critical patient protections for everyone with health insurance.” Well, at least she didn’t accuse him of kidnapping the Lindbergh baby.
And speaking of babies, Stabenow’s semi-hysterical reference to “gutting women’s health services” echoes the denunciations Dr. Price is already getting from the abortion lobby. He isn’t merely guilty of being pro-life, he has a peculiar aversion to harvesting the organs of aborted children and selling them to the highest bidder. For that thought crime, he has been denounced by the ghoul who runs the nation’s leading wholesaler of baby parts: “Tom Price poses a grave threat to women’s health in this country.… Price could take women back decades.” In other words, he is a Five-Star General in the “war on women.”
But Price’s war on seniors and women doesn’t exhaust the attacks he allegedly has planned for vulnerable Americans. There is still the “war on the poor.” This canard involves Price’s plan to issue Medicaid funds to the states via block grants. The Democrat objection to this is summed up by Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, who is running for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, “Gutting Medicaid through ‘Block Grants’ would mean millions of older Americans, pregnant women, and children would likely become uninsured.” This is alarmist nonsense. Cato’s Michael Cannon explains:
Building on the success of welfare reform, block grants would give states the incentive and flexibility to target Medicaid funds to the truly needy, while removing from the rolls millions of people who could obtain coverage on their own. States could keep covering every single Obamacare Medicaid-expansion enrollee if they wished, or establish high-risk pools for former exchange enrollees with preexisting conditions.
Block granting Medicaid funds would, in other words, be the precise opposite of a “war on the poor.” Not that this inconvenient fact will sway the Democrat plan to Bork Tom Price. As James Arkin writes at RealClearPolitics, “If Senate Republicans stay united, they can confirm President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees without any support from Democrats.” But the latter intend to test the resolve of congressional Republicans and the Trump administration to stick together in a tough fight, and Price is going to be the test case. According Arkin, “Democrats think they will find success in opposing Price.”
If confirmed, Tom Price will be the best qualified HHS secretary in a generation. His nomination has been received enthusiastically by the health care industry, and he has received endorsements from the American Medical Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Moreover, unlike Kathleen Sebelius and Sylvia Burwell, he spent twenty years actually treating patients. He knows the system and why Obamacare isn’t working. If the Democrats successfully Bork him, it means that they can’t be trusted with even a modicum of power.