NEW YORK (Reuters) – President-elect Donald Trump will roll out two top members of what he will cast as a “dream team” on Tuesday to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system, a transition official told Reuters on Monday.
Trump is set to name Georgia congressman Tom Price as Health and Human Services secretary and Indiana consultant Seema Verma to lead the powerful Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), an agency that oversees government health programs and insurance standards.
If confirmed by the Senate, Price and Verma will play a central role in overhauling the health care insurance law better known as Obamacare, the signature domestic legislative achievement of President Barack Obama, once the Trump administration takes office on Jan. 20.
Price, an orthopaedic surgeon and vociferous critic of the Affordable Care Act, has long championed a plan of tax credits, expanded health savings accounts, and lawsuit reforms to replace Obamacare.
Verma was the architect of the nation’s first consumer directed Medicaid program, the Health Indiana Plan, which requires beneficiaries to make monthly contributions to health savings accounts.
Trump had pledged during his campaign for the White House to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a plan to give states more control over the Medicaid health plan for the poor and allow insurers to sell plans nationally.
However, after meeting Obama following the Nov. 8 election, Trump said he would consider keeping provisions in the law that let parents keep adult children up to age 26 on insurance policies and bar insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
Price and Verma are two of about 70 people who Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence have met so far as they look to shape their White House and Cabinet team before taking office. Trump and Pence are also expected to reveal an additional Cabinet pick on Tuesday.
SECRETARY OF STATE INTRIGUE
But the coveted secretary of state job will not be announced on Tuesday, Jason Miller, a spokesman for Trump, said in a Fox News interview.
The jockeying to be America’s top diplomat is taking place in an unusually open fashion, reflecting the unconventional political approach of Trump, a real estate magnate who has never held public office.
Trump was slated to have dinner on Tuesday night with Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee. Romney was a fierce critic of Trump during his run for office but is now a “top flight” candidate for the secretary of state post, Miller said.
Miller said Trump was also considering former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani – favoured by Trump loyalists who worked on the election campaign – and discussed the position with retired general David Petraeus on Monday.
“Just met with General Petraeus–was very impressed!” Trump said on Twitter shortly after Petraeus left the hour-long meeting in Manhattan.
Petraeus, a former U.S. military commander who led international forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, was sentenced to two years’ probation and fined $100,000 last year for the unauthorised removal and retention of classified information.
He admitted sharing classified information with his biographer, with whom he was having an affair. The scandal forced Petraeus to resign from the CIA in 2012.
Petraeus said after meeting Trump the New York businessman “basically walked us around the world” in their discussion. “He showed a great grasp of the variety of challenges that are out there and some of the opportunities as well,” Petraeus told reporters.
Petraeus’ past mishandling of classified documents is unlikely to be an obstacle to Trump offering him a top government post, even though Trump harshly criticized Democratic rival Hillary Clinton during the campaign for using a private email server while she was secretary of state.
Trump often compared the prosecution of Petraeus with the lack of legal action against Clinton, who was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation but never charged with any offence.
“Just based on his public statements, I think (Trump) sees Petraeus as a good man who made a mistake, who did a fraction of what other people have done and received a lot more punishment,” said a source who has advised the transition team on national security.
Among the Trump transition team, Petraeus and Romney are supported by Republicans looking for a candidate with gravitas who can unify the party, the source said.
But Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser who managed Trump’s campaign, has said Romney would cause a backlash among his supporters, who back Guiliani.
Miller said Conway has Trump’s blessing to express her views about Romney.
On Tuesday, Trump also plans to meet U.S. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who is also said to be in the mix.
Ideological conservatives hope Trump picks John Bolton, the former ambassador to the United Nations, the source said. Corker is well regarded but some in the Trump camp do not want too many senators in the Cabinet, the source said.
(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom, Eric Beech and Julia Harte in Washington; Writing by Alistair Bell and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Peter Cooney and Paul Tait)