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Paying the “Price” for New HHS Secretary

AFSCME International president explains why older Americans are particularly vulnerable now that the Senate has confirmed Tom Price as the next secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Paying the “Price” for New HHS Secretary
By Lee Saunders ·

Throughout his campaign, President Trump insisted that he would keep America’s promise to its retirees by not cutting Medicare or Social Security. But when it came to choosing a Secretary of Health and Human Services, he looked to Rep. Tom Price, who has shown an enthusiasm for shredding the health care safety net, with little regard for the economic security of older Americans.

Price, whom the Senate confirmed late last week, embraces tax cuts for the wealthy, while advocating Social Security cuts that could drive seniors into poverty. He supports increasing the Medicare eligibility age. Even worse, he wants to convert Medicare from a guaranteed benefit into a voucher that would have declining purchasing power each year, leading to escalating out-of-pocket health costs for seniors.

Medicaid is also in jeopardy under Secretary Price. The drastic cuts he supports would hurt our most vulnerable populations: the poor, people with disabilities, people in nursing homes and those receiving care in their homes. Medicaid cuts also threaten the jobs of tens of thousands of AFSCME members and others working in health care occupations. And less money for Medicaid would force states to cut back on other essential public services – education, transportation, law enforcement and more – that sustain communities and support good jobs.

If that’s not bad enough, Price was one of the most ferocious congressional opponents of the Affordable Care Act. Repeal of the ACA, something President Trump did endorse in his campaign, would eventually leave 30 million people out in the cold, without the health coverage they need, one accident or illness away from financial ruin.

People who work hard and sacrifice their whole lives have every right to expect a dignified retirement and the ability to afford a doctor’s visit. Secretary Price apparently disagrees. He believes medical coverage should be for the healthy and wealthy, beyond the reach of ordinary working people and retirees.

These are extreme views, which violate the basic social contract. And they are largely inconsistent with the rhetoric of the Trump campaign, which pledged to lift up working families and protect the programs they depend on. The evidence is mounting that Donald Trump, although he ran for president as a populist, is prepared to be a president for the privileged and powerful.

Lee Saunders is the President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO. This entry is cross-posted from The Huffington Post.

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