On Tuesday morning, the Donald Trump transition team announced that it was tapping Rep. Tom Price to head up the Department of Health and Human Services, which Sen. Chuck Schumer likened Trump's Price pick to "asking the fox to guard the hen house.” But behind Schumer’s folksy analogy is a very frank assessment of the kind of damage someone like Price could do to the way people get healthcare in America: he could tear it to pieces.
The first notion I want to disabuse you of is that Price isn’t well-suited to the job — that is, the job of dismantling Obamacare (and probably taking some good swipes at Medicare and Medicaid while he’s at it). Price is a former surgeon who understands the health care system; unlike many of his fellow politicians, he’s not throwing around rhetoric. Price has introduced detailed bills proposing alternatives to Obamacare every year since 2009 — the year before the Affordable Care Act was passed.
Price takes the view that the ACA is a manifestation of an oppressive government getting between doctors and patients, though seems unsympathetic to the fact that should his plans succeed, the government will have come between doctors and patients by making poorer patients unable to afford the doctors.
Schumer highlighted the ways in which Price’s politics make him a dangerous appointment as Secretary of Health and Human Services. “Congressman Price has proven to be far out of the mainstream of what Americans want when it comes to Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, and Planned Parenthood,” Schumer said. “Thanks to those three programs, millions of American seniors, families, people with disabilities and women have access to quality, affordable health care.”
Medicare may just as vulnerable under a Secretary Price as Obamacare. Despite Trump saying he would preserve the health care program for seniors during the campaign, The Nation’s David Dyer said “the Price pick should leave no doubt: Donald Trump is coming for your Medicare. This is not a drill.” Last week, Schumer inveighed against Republicans going after the program, saying, “The Republicans’ ideological and visceral hatred of government could deny millions of senior citizens across the country the care they need and deserve.”
Perhaps most crucially, we shouldn’t overlook the scary implications a Secretary Price has for women’s health. A long-time opponent of Planned Parenthood, Price has voted several times to defund the organization and holds a dim view of government helping women access birth control.
If Price succeeds in even half of his policy goals, I believe we can expect big, unpleasant changes when it comes to healthcare access for anyone who isn’t a full-time employee, independently wealthy, or a man. Make no mistake: Price is a fox, and we’re the hens in the hen house.