In another anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice addition to his cabinet, President-elect Trump announced today that he's nominating Georgia congressman Tom Price to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.
"Chairman Price, a renowned physician, has earned a reputation for being a tireless problem solver and the go-to expert on healthcare policy, making him the ideal choice to serve in this capacity," Trump said.
Price, an orthopedic surgeon, is a close ally of Vice President-elect Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan. He's consistently voted against LGBTQ equality and protection measures, is firmly pro-life, and has been a staunch critic of the Affordable Care Act, with clear intentions to gut Obama's landmark healthcare law.
In the days following the election, after meeting with President Obama, Trump said he was reconsidering his campaign promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act entirely. Choosing Price significantly moves the needle back toward repeal. That would mean that some 22 million Americans could lose their health insurance, with dire consequences for LGBTQ Americans and abortion rights.
Republicans released a plan in June that they say would better serve Americans–but its costs and how long it could take to implement are so far unclear. It's also not clear how many of those 22 million would be covered under their proposed plan. The Republican plan would allow insurers to charge older, sicker patients more compared to younger, healthier patients and places more emphasis on Medicaid block grants for states to use at their discretion rather than direct federal funding of healthcare programs.
With the likelihood of the Affordable Care Act's demise in mind, here are the three main ways Price's helm at the agency charged with the literal health of the country could be bad for a lot of people:
In 2007, Price co-sponsored a bill proposing a constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage. The same year, he opposed an employment non-discrimination bill and a bill to provide federal assistance to local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute hate crimes.
After the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of same-sex marriage last year, he called the decision "not only a sad day for marriage, but a further judicial destruction of our entire system of checks and balances.”
For LGBTQ Americans, Price's anti-LGBTQ record is worrying because the Affordable Care Act's anti-discrimination clauses—which specifically prohibit healthcare discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity—could be repealed or not enforced.
But Price's homophobic comments (he once referred to LGBTQ rights as "activity that has been seen as outside the norm" that could lead to negative "medical health and costs") and voting record in the past also suggest that federal funding for LGBTQ health programs like HIV/AIDS initiatives and transgender health programs could be at risk.
Price has said that he doesn't think women need insurance plans that include birth control, as currently mandated by the Affordable Care Act. In a 2012 interview with ThinkProgress reporter Scott Keyes, he said he doesn't believe there are women in America who can't afford birth control out of pocket and that ACA rules are a violation of religious freedom (emphasis theirs):
KEYES: Obviously one of the main sticking points is whether or not contraception coverage is going to be covered under health insurance plans and at hospitals and whether or not they’re going to be able to pay for it, especially for low-income women. Where do we leave these women if this rule is rescinded?
PRICE: Bring me one woman who has been left behind. Bring me one. There’s not one. The fact of the matter is, this is a trampling of religious freedom and religious liberty in this country. The president does not have the power to say that your First Amendment rights go away. That’s wrong.
Price has also consistently supported bills aimed at severely restricting abortion and de-funding reproductive health care providers like Planned Parenthood. Last year he co-sponsored the Health Care Conscience Rights Act in Congress, which was partly aimed at undercutting the Affordable Care Act's provisions that women be covered for access to abortion and contraception through their health insurance. The 2007 Right to Life Act, which he also supported, would have criminalized nearly all abortion across the country. He has a 100% rating from the National Right to Life Committee, which lists 52 bills that Price has voted on since 2005 in line with his anti-choice stance.
The American Medical Association has labeled gun control a public health crisis (some 30,000 people are killed in gun violence across the country each year). In 2013, shortly after the Sandy Hook massacre, Obama used an executive order to lift a restriction that prevented the Centers for Disease Control from researching the impact and causes of gun violence as a public health issue.
But as the Washington Post reports, the CDC has remained reluctant to examine gun control, partly because when they did in 1996, Congress threatened to strip their funding. That's a dynamic that's likely to be encouraged under Price's leadership of the Department of Health and Human Services. Price has an A rating from the NRA and has been an outspoken opponent of gun control measures.
“We know that the safe use and responsible ownership of firearms has time and time again safeguarded individual and public safety. In fact, guns are used more often to protect lives, not take lives. Steps to remove firearms from the hands of law-abiding citizens endangers those very citizens," he said in a statement following Obama's speech proposing gun control measures earlier this year (the idea that more guns make us safer has been disproven by multiple studies)
Combined with a Supreme Court nominee who's likely to hold many of the same views as Price and the other cabinet picks Trump has so far announced, we're likely to see the Republican-led Senate and House gain traction quickly on restricting abortion access and LGBTQ rights and protections over the next four years.
The Trump transition team and Price's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.