The Senate Finance Committee Jan. 24 held a confirmation hearing for President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) nominee, Rep. Tom Price, MD (R-Ga.).
In his opening testimony, Dr. Price told the committee, “If confirmed, my obligation will be to carry to the Department of Health and Human Services both an appreciation for bipartisan, team-driven policymaking and what has been a lifetime commitment to work to improve the health and well-being of the American people. That commitment extends to what I call the six principles of health care – six principles that, if you think about it, all of us hold dear: affordability, accessibility, quality, choices, innovation, and responsiveness.”
Dr. Price went on to highlight other important work happening at the agency stating, “HHS is more than just health care. There are real heroes at this department doing incredible work to keep our food safe, to develop new drugs and treatment options – driven by scientists conducting truly remarkable research. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – which we in Atlanta are proud to have headquartered in our city – is the first place the world turns to when there’s a health care threat that requires the greatest, most capable minds to solve.”
Similar to last week’s hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee [see Washington Highlights, Jan. 19], Republican plans to repeal and replace the ACA and potential cuts to Medicare and Medicaid funding dominated the hearing. In his opening statement, Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) addressed a key Republican priority saying, “the next HHS Secretary will play a pivotal role as we work to repeal Obamacare and replace it with patient-centered reforms that will actually address cost. This will be an important endeavor, one that will and should get a lot of attention here today, but it should not be the sole focus of the next HHS Secretary.”
Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) outlined Democratic concerns with Republican efforts to repeal and replace the ACA and reform the Medicare and Medicaid programs. In his opening statement, Wyden said, “If his repeal bill became law, 18 million Americans would lose their health care plans in less than two years. In one decade you’d go from 26 million people without insurance to 59 million. Repeal and run would raise premiums 50 percent in less than two years. Costs would continue to skyrocket from there. The market for individuals to buy health insurance would collapse.”
Finally, Chairman Hatch expressed dismay and regret for the highly partisan atmosphere surrounding the nomination and hearing stating, “I just want to note that the overly partisan treatment of nominees and distortions of their records is a relatively new development on this committee. My hope is that we can begin today to reverse recent trends and have a fair and open discussion of the nominee and his qualifications.”