The U.S. Senate approved the nomination of Representative Tom Price (R-GA) to be Secretary of Health and Human Services early this morning by a vote of 52 to 47. As secretary, Price will be responsible for a department with an annual budget of more than $1 trillion and will put him in charge of President Trump’s efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.

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Tom Price’s no-nonsense work ethic, attention to detail, and an unquenchable thirst to be at the center of weighty decisions—particularly involving medical policy—has driven him throughout his life. Price traveled the state of Georgia in the 1990s to rail against Hillary Clinton’s health care proposal, a prelude to his first run for office. It was the centerpiece of his rise from Roswell surgeon to political power broker in the Georgia Senate. And his former campaign manager swears the chance to lead the federal government’s health care system was on his mind shortly after he won his U.S. House seat in 2004.

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California has been an early and frequent booster of the Affordable Care Act and the vast majority of the state’s politicians are committed to improving, rather than repealing, the law. The best path forward is for California to seize the opportunities in the GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. Two major areas where California could cooperate with the Trump Administration and the Republican Congress include improving coverage and access for the working poor, and controlling health care costs, particularly for small businesses and those who do not receive insurance subsidies.

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The recent debate over the future of Obamacare has obscured an important, but fundamental, truth: The American health care system is exceptional.

It is entrepreneurial and offers patients more control over their health care decisions than anywhere else in the world. One of the primary problems with Obamacare is that it does not prioritize these values. As the Trump administration and congressional Republicans consider what to do after the repeal of Obamacare, they should, as the Hippocratic Oath states, “do no harm” to those elements of our health care system that are functioning well. But they should also take steps to promote policies that emphasize choice and innovation.
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House Republicans have been working with the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on parts of an ObamaCare replacement that they could include in a repeal bill this spring, lobbyists and aides told The Hill. They have been working with the CBO, Congress’s nonpartisan budget scorekeeper, on the details of tax credits, high-risk pool funding, and changes to Medicaid that could be included in a repeal bill that Republicans hope to pass by the end of March.

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Many recent press reports have centered around the notion that Republicans are stuck in the mud trying to get their repeal and replace promises moving. That line appeared to be reinforced over last weekend when President Trump said in an interview that the process could draw out into next year. He was likely referring to the fact that the whole process, that includes implementing the replacement, could take well past 2017. Instead, Trump was taken literally by the press looking to write stories about how the whole process was foundering. Speaker Paul Ryan quickly countered in his press briefing that Republicans will legislate a repeal and replace of Obamacare this year.

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A Republican proposal to change how Medicaid is financed could save the federal government up to $150 billion, according to a new report. Block-granting Medicaid—when states receive a set amount of federal money to put towards the program—would result in $150 billion less in federal Medicaid spending over five years, according to an analysis released Monday by Avalere Health. Shifting to per capita caps—when states receive a set amount of federal money per beneficiary—would save $110 billion over five years, according to the analysis.

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The orderly transition to a more stable and affordable health-care system is merely beginning. Too much significance is attributed to Republicans adding the word “repair” to their vocabulary, as if this represents a policy change. The insurance markets really do need repair, and doing nothing isn’t realistic amid ObamaCare’s downward spiral. Uncertainty is inevitably priced into premiums, and benefits and rates for 2018 started to be designed and set months ago. They’ll be approved by regulators in the spring, so Mr. Trump’s HHS picks, Tom Price and Seema Verma, need to move fast to bring more predictability to the markets.

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The Trump administration is considering major changes to Obamacare that may help convince insurers to remain in the law’s marketplaces while Congress drafts a replacement plan — but the proposals may also limit enrollment and increase costs for older Americans, according to documents obtained by POLITICO.

The administration is looking to alter rules around insurers charging older customers more, how much cost they can shift onto customers, and who’s allowed to sign up outside the standard enrollment window. They represent changes that the industry had previously asked the Obama administration to make.

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Two of the top Republicans in Congress on Monday said they are pushing ahead with the plan to begin repealing ObamaCare this spring, despite any confusion caused by President Trump saying the process could spill into next year.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) told reporters that he is working off of Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) timeline of moving repeal legislation by the end of March.

“That’s the timetable I’m working off of,” Brady said.

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