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Trump taps Obamacare critic to lead Department of Health

Tom Price is a surgeon who has been a member of Congress' lower house for over 10 years. Donald Trump's team has said his first mission will be to repeal and replace Obamacare.

US President-elect Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that he would nominate Georgia Congressman Tom Price as head of the Department of Health and Human Services. The orthopedic surgeon is a critic of the Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as "Obamacare."

In a statement, Price said that he would strive "to ensure we have a healthcare system that works for patients, families, and doctors" using "sensible rules to protect the well-being of the country while embracing its innovative spirit."

Price had been an early supporter of Trump's campaign. After announcing the pick, the president-elect called the congressman "exceptionally qualified to shepherd our commitment to repeal and replace Obamacare and bring affordable and accessible healthcare to every American."

The 2010 law aimed at reducing the high rate of people with no health insurance across the US has become a symbol of the bitter ideological battle between the Democrats and Republicans. The Obama administration argues that it has given millions of Americans access to necessary healthcare, while Republicans have criticized it as government overreach.

Price's appointment will require Senate confirmation, after which both houses of Congress would have to agree on any move to dismantle Obamacare.

Democratic leader: Price is out of touch

New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who will become the Democrats' minority leader in the upper chamber, slammed the choice, calling Representative Price's ideas "far out of the mainstream of what Americans want when it comes to Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, and Planned Parenthood."

Trump's spokesman, Jason Miller, defended the nomination in a CNN interview, saying that the Affordable Care Act was already "imploding" due to rising premiums.

Later on Tuesday, Donald Trump also declared that his pick for Transportation Secretary would be Elaine Chao, who lead the Department of Labor under President George W. Bush and was the first Asian-American woman in the US cabinet. Chao is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was largely silent on Trump's candidacy until the very end of the election campaign, when he offered the president-elect his somewhat muted support.

es/msh (AP, Reuters)

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