Rep. Tom Price, a Republican congressman from Georgia, was sworn in as Secretary of Health and Human Services on February 10, following a 2 a.m. vote in the Senate that fell along party lines. But his tenure in President Trump's cabinet was short-lived; on September 29, Price resigned after a controversy surrounding his use of government funds to travel via private jet.
Price, 62, oversaw a sprawling department with a $1 trillion budget that includes Medicare and Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare), the Centers for Disease Control, and regulations over the nation’s food and drugs.
Here’s what you need to know about Price:
1. He is an orthopedic surgeon.
Price was born in Lansing, Michigan, attended college and medical school at the University of Michigan, and did his residency at Emory University in Atlanta, according to his congressional biography. He spent 20 years in private practice in Atlanta and served as medical director of the orthopedic clinic at Grady Memorial Hospital. He was also an assistant professor at Emory University’s School of Medicine.
In 1996, Price was elected to the Georgia state senate, holding office until he was elected to Congress to 2004, representing Georgia’s sixth district, a collection of suburbs north of Atlanta.
Price entered politics, the New York Times reported, because he believed officials in Washington and Atlanta with no medical experience were making decisions that affected the care of his patients. According to the Times:
[Price] has introduced legislation that would make it easier for doctors to defend themselves against medical malpractice lawsuits and to enter into private contracts with Medicare beneficiaries. Under such contracts, doctors can, in effect, opt out of Medicare and charge more than the amounts normally allowed by the program’s rules.
He expressed pride in joining fellow conservatives to fight against the “vile liberal agenda that is threatening everything we hold dear as Americans,” according to the Washington Post. In Congress, Price, who was part of the Tea Party Caucus, was the chairman of the House Committee on the Budget.
2. He’s a fierce opponent of Obamacare.
Price often led the Republicans’ effort to roll back the Affordable Care Act, helping draft legislation to replace the law. Obamacare, he said in 2010, “will have a disastrous effect on our nation’s healthcare system,” according to the Times.
He has argued that Obamacare puts government in between the doctor and the patient. "They believe the government ought to be in control of health care," Price said in June. "We believe that patients and doctors should be in control of health care."
The legislation he drafted to replace Obamacare, called the Empowering Patients First Act, sought to provide refundable tax credits - adjusted based on a person’s age - to buy individual or family health insurance policies if a person can’t get insurance through his or her employer or a government program, according to the Wall Street Journal. (Obamacare provides tax credits based on income and the cost of insurance in a specific area.)
He supported efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare during his tenure at HHS secretary, but although the House passed a proposal in May 2017, the Senate failed to pass a bill.
3. He opposes Obamacare’s birth control mandate.
A provision in Obamacare requires insurers to cover birth control without a copay, but Price is against the measure, saying it infringes on religious liberties, according to The Atlantic, which notes that the law doesn’t require women to take birth control.
By dropping this part of the law, millions of women might be unable to afford birth control, according to a 2010 survey commissioned by Planned Parenthood. In 2012, however, Price said he doubts there are women who can’t afford their birth control.
At the Conservative Political Action Conference, a reporter for ThinkProgress asked Price:
One of the main sticking points is whether or not contraceptive coverage is going to be covered under health insurance plans and at hospitals and whether they’re going to be able to pay for it, especially low-income women ... where do we leave these women if this rule is rescinded?
Price responded: “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 on religious freedom and religious liberty in this country.”
4. And he is strongly anti-abortion.
Price opposes abortion rights, according to NPR. In Congress, he has voted against federal funding for abortion and funding for groups like Planned Parenthood. In 2007, he voted for a bill granting equal protection under the 14th Amendment to unborn babies, which would ban abortions nationwide in almost all cases.
The New York Times pointed out that Price received 100 percent ratings from the National Right to Life Committee and a score of zero from Planned Parenthood. “Tom Price poses a grave threat to women’s health in this country," Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement.
Sasha Bruce, senior vice president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said Trump's choice of Price as secretary of Health and Human Services sends "a clear signal that he intends to punish women who seek abortion care."
Ahead of his confirmation vote, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, called Price “a rabid supporter of defunding Planned Parenthood.”
5. He is against same-sex marriage.
When the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal nationwide in 2015, Price said, according to the New York Times, it was “not only a sad day for marriage, but a further judicial destruction of our entire system of checks and balances.”
In Congress, Price voted against legislation meant to prevent job discrimination based on sexual orientation, according to NPR. He is also in favor of a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.
Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and chief executive of GLAAD, said Price was “completely unfit” to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.
6. His wife is also a doctor and politician.
Yesterday, Betty & I had a great time learning about the forestry industry which employs approx 44,000 people in GA. pic.twitter.com/364HhW6wp3
- Tom Price (@RepTomPrice) August 2, 2016
Price is married to Elizabeth “Betty” Clark, who was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in July 2015, according to her Georgia House bio. She practiced medicine for 20 years, working as an anesthesiologist. Tom and Betty met while working at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. Together, they have one adult son, Robert Price.
7. He invested in healthcare companies while pushing policies to benefit them.
Since 2012, Price has bought and sold stock in about 40 healthcare, pharmaceutical, and biomedical companies, according to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal. As a congressman with positions on a number of committees that shape healthcare policy, Price advanced legislation that benefited about six of those companies in the last year, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Price has maintained that his stockbroker made all of these investments without him knowing about it. And, as CNN pointed out, Price has investments in a diverse number of companies, including Facebook, Boeing, and Phillips 66. “Everything that I did was ethical, aboveboard, legal and transparent," Price said.
But Price's own testimony during his confirmation hearings seems to contradict part of this explanation. In one instance, he invested between $50,000 and $100,000 in an Australian biotech company - his largest single investment - whose biggest shareholder and member of its board of directors is Price's colleague, Chris Collins, a Republican representative from New York, according to the Journal. Price said Collins told him about the company and that he could invest at a discount price.
Democrats wanted an investigation of Price over concerns that he violated a law meant to prevent lawmakers from using non-public information for public benefit. But the investigation never materialized. “While Congressman Price served on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, he traded in health care stocks, pushed policies that helped his portfolio and got special access to a promising stock deal,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon.
On March 17, ProPublica reported that U.S. Attorney General Preet Bharara - whom Trump fired after Bharara refused to resign - was investigating Price's stock trades at the time of his dismissal. Bharara hinted that his firing was political motivated because Trump had previously asked him to stay in his job and then suddenly reversed course.
8. He belongs to a doctor's organizations with some unusual views.
Price is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), which, according to the Washington Post, "opposes Medicare, the government’s health insurance for older Americans, and it offers extensive training to doctors on how to opt out of the program." The group is also against mandatory vaccination, which it calls the “equivalent to human experimentation."
During his confirmation hearing, Price was specifically asked whether he thinks vaccines cause autism, a widely debunked claim. Price responded, "I think the science in that instance is that they don’t." Democrats feared Price would gut Medicare as well as Medicaid, a government program that provides health insurance for people in need.
“Buying and selling health care stocks as a member of Congress while you’re voting and helping those companies, that’s bad enough,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio. “But what he wants to do to maybe the greatest program in American history, Medicare, is much, much worse.”
Price did not indicate he planned to scrap or, as some Democratic activists have suggested, "phase out" Medicare. He suggested an overhaul of the programs, which could, according to Politifact, "dramatically change how Medicare works."
9. He resigned after a controversy over his use of private flights.
In his short time in the office, according to the New York Times, Price racked up nearly $400,000 in travel bills for private chartered flights across the country. He also took military flights to Europe, Africa, and Asia, at a cost of $500,000. The flights, first reported by Politico, cost tens of thousands dollars more than commercial airplane flights, and were unusual compared to his predecessors.
The report was met with outrage, especially since Price has been a public critic of federal overspending. Trump publicly admonished Price for the excessive cost. Price agreed to pay back part of the cost of his private flights, equal to the cost of his seat on each flight, and expressed regret for his travel decisions. But it wasn't enough, and he tended his resignation on September 29. President Trump announced he would appoint Don J. Wright, the deputy assistant secretary for health, as Acting Secretary of Health and Human Services.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This story was originally published on November 29, 2016 and has been updated.
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