December 16, 2016: Last month, the president-elect announced his decision to nominate ardent opponent of women’s health and the Affordable Care Act (ACA; a.k.a. “Obamacare”) Representative Tom Price (R-GA) to serve as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and health policy consultant Seema Verma as the chief administrator for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
Who is Tom Price?
Rep. Price, who is formerly a practicing orthopedic surgeon, has a long record of opposing abortion access and other reproductive rights and has voted several times to defund Planned Parenthood. He has also been a leader in the charge to repeal the ACA and supports shifting Medicaid programs to block grant funding structures with less federal oversight and fewer protections for low-income people.
Who is Seema Verma?
Verma worked alongside Vice President-elect Mike Pence as a key architect of Indiana’s Medicaid expansion program, which erected barriers to low income people maintaining coverage, such as requiring enrollees at the poverty line to pay into the program and penalizing missed contributions with lockouts or more restrictive plans lacking benefits like dental coverage.
What does this mean?
Rep. Price’s leadership of HHS–the government agency that houses Health Resources Services Administration/Bureau of HIV/AIDS (HRSA HAB), home to the Ryan White CARE Act providing care and treatment to hundreds of thousands of people living with HIV, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and most federal health related agencies–could have grave consequences for women living with HIV. With Price and Verma at the helm of the federal health care system, safety net coverage and assistance programs could see unconscionable cuts in the name of free-market approaches and “personal choice.” This could hinder access to lifesaving treatment and even further curtail the reproductive autonomy of women living with HIV, who are more likely to be low-income and rely on publicly funded coverage options.
For more information on what’s at stake for women’s health if the ACA is repealed under Price’s leadership:
For more information on projected changes to Medicaid and other safety net programs:
Both Verma and Rep. Price will be subject to senate confirmation by majority vote but will first be vetted by two key committees, the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) and Finance Committee, likely in the first few weeks of the new year. Before these hearings take place, it is critical that we hold our elected officials accountable to vigorously interrogate the records of these nominees and press them to answer tough questions about their plans to dismantle the nation’s health care safety net, as well as the sexual and reproductive health care delivery systems our communities rely heavily upon.
Check here to see if your senator is a member of the Senate HELP or Finance Committee and call, write and/or tweet them to express your opposition to Rep. Tom Price as our next HHS Secretary and Seema Verma as the next administrator of CMS.
Sample script for email or phone call
My name is [your name], and I am a constituent from [your state and city]. I’m [writing or calling] to express my opposition to the nomination of Rep. Tom Price to lead our nation’s federal health care system. The ACA has expanded coverage to more than 20 million people including people living with HIV. Rep. Price’s voting record reflects that he does not support access to the comprehensive healthcare needs of women living with HIV.
My name is [your name], and I am a constituent from [your state and city]. I’m [writing or calling] to express my opposition to the nomination Seema Verma to lead CMS. Medicaid program reforms as proposed under Verma’s leadership will prevent low income women living HIV from maintaining coverage and accessing life-saving treatment.
@[Senator’s handle] We cannot afford to lose #healthcare! Please oppose@RepTomPrice for HHS & Seema Verma for CMS!