The US Senate has confirmed Donald Trump’s pick, Tom Price, as the next health secretary.
The late-night vote was 52 to 47, split along party lines, in favour of the Republican representative for Georgia, a staunch opponent of the health insurance system known as Obamacare.
The former orthopaedic surgeon has faced claims of insider trading over his investments in medical companies while involved in health legislation.
He denies all wrongdoing.
Mr Price has also supported moves to curb abortion, and backs cutting federal funds to Planned Parenthood, a women’s healthcare organisation that provides abortions as well as many other services, including free birth control.
President Trump made dismantling his predecessor’s Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare or the ACA, a central campaign pledge.
The policy has provided healthcare subsidies and medical coverage for millions who are not covered through work, banned insurers from refusing to cover to people who are already ill, and curbed medical charges to the sick and elderly.
But it has been hit by rising premiums, large fees and national insurers exiting the marketplaces.
Two Obamacare experiences
- Duncan (pictured), 22, has been receiving chemotherapy and he’s fearful that repeal will mean he loses his place on his parents’ insurance
- Frank, 62, has experienced rocketing premiums and calls the law a “snowball of chaos”
Mr Price, who has served in the House of Representatives since 2005, has long been vehemently opposed to Obamacare and has proposed his own detailed plan for an alternative system.
He proposes using tax credits to enable people to purchase health insurance, but critics say this would benefit the young, healthy and rich at the expense of older, sicker and poorer people.
Mr Trump has promised “insurance for all” and said he would reveal a new bill once Mr Price was confirmed.
In the confirmation debate, which continued into the early hours of Friday, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell praised Mr Price for knowing “more about health care policy than just about anyone”.
But Democrat Elizabeth Warren said: “The American people deserve a Secretary of Health and Human Services who will help more Americans receive quality, affordable health insurance coverage, not one who supports stripping it away by repealing the Affordable Care Act without a replacement.”
Mr Price has previously come under fire for investing more than $300,000 (£245,000) in healthcare companies, some of which later profited from decisions he made as a high-ranking member of Congress – a possible violation of House ethics rules.
He has said most of those decisions were made independently by his broker, but confirmed that he was personally involved in purchasing stock of Australian biomedical company Innate Immunotherapeutics on the advice of a fellow Republican congressman.