Dems Grill HHS Nominee Price About Trump Comments, Stock Holdings

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McConnell (R-KY) said “promptly but in manageable pieces.” Without providing details, Price indicated that there wouldn’t be a gap between the ACA and the new plan Congress puts together. “Nobody is interested in pulling the rug out from under anybody,” Price said. “It’s imperative that people with health coverage keep coverage and hopefully move to more choices for them and their families.”

Price said Tuesday issues with healthcare costs, accessibility, and choices—being able to see the doctor you want—are at the “heart and center of where we ought to be putting our attention.”

The market for individual insurance—the roughly 18 million people aren’t on Medicare or Medicaid plans, and don’t have insurance through their jobs—is in a “downward spiral” due to increasing costs and lack of options for patients, he said. “Patients are making decisions about not getting the kind of care they need because they can’t afford the deductible,” Price said.

Democratic senators also grilled Price over potential ethical breaches. They brought up allegations that he benefitted from inside information when trading the stock of Australian biotech Innate Immunotherapeutics. (Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) is also under fire for his large ownership of the same company, which could benefit from new rules to speed up drug trials passed recently in the 21st Century Cures Act.)

They also questioned the timing of Price’s stock purchases in several biotech companies, including joint replacement manufacturer Zimmer Biomet Holdings (NYSE: ZBH). The Zimmer purchase came just days before he proposed a bill, the HIP Act, that would help the company. Price denied all impropriety and said his broker made the purchases without his knowledge. Still, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash) called for an independent investigation into the transactions.

Senators also challenged Price on his budget proposals that would cut Medicare spending by $449 billion and Medicaid funding to state governments by more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years, despite Trump’s assertions that such funding won’t be cut. Price didn’t address Trump’s comments specifically, saying instead that money isn’t the “metric” used to judge the success of those programs. “What we believe is appropriate is to make certain that the individuals who are receiving the care actually receive the care,” he said.

The HELP Committee won’t vote on Price’s nomination; that task goes to the Senate Finance Committee next Tuesday.

Photo of U.S. Capitol by Kevin Dooley via a Creative Commons 2.0 license.

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