The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Jan. 18 held a hearing for President-elect Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) nominee, Rep. Tom Price, MD (R-Ga.). While the Senate HELP Committee held a hearing on the nomination, the Senate Finance Committee has jurisdiction over the nomination’s confirmation. The Senate Finance Committee has scheduled its confirmation hearing for Tuesday, Jan. 24, at 10 a.m.
In his opening testimony, Dr. Price noted that “We all want a health care system that’s affordable, that’s accessible to all, of the highest quality, with the greatest number of choices, driven by world-leading innovations, and responsive to the needs of the individual patient.”
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and coverage through Medicare and Medicaid were prominent themes of questions during the discussion. In his opening statement, HELP Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) addressed Republicans’ plans to repeal and replace the ACA “simultaneously,” as President-elect Trump has suggested, or “concurrently” as House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has indicated. The chairman noted that he believes “‘simultaneously’ and ‘concurrently’ means Obamacare should be finally repealed only when there are concrete, practical reforms in place that give Americans access to truly affordable health care.”
Additionally, Chairman Alexander referred to the ACA as an “old bridge,” noting that a town with a bridge “very near collapse,” would “build a better bridge, or more accurately, many bridges, to replace the old bridge. Finally, when the new bridges are finished you would close the old bridge.”
Similarly, he argued, lawmakers “will first send in a rescue crew to repair temporarily a collapsing health care market so no one else is hurt,” followed by incremental efforts to “build better systems that give Americans access to truly affordable health care” by “moving health care decisions out of Washington, D.C., and back to states and patients.”
Meanwhile, Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) inquired if Dr. Price supports “the increases for NIH” that Congress approved in the FY 2016 omnibus [see Washington Highlights, Dec. 18, 2015] and in the proposed FY 2017 spending bills [see Washington Highlights, July 15]. Dr. Price responded that “NIH is a treasure for our country in the kind of things we should be doing to find cures for those diseases. One of the core avenues to be able to make that happen is through NIH, and I supported the increase.”
Dr. Price also fielded several questions from Democrats regarding his financial investments in stocks of health-related companies, with HELP Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) ending her inquiry stating that lawmakers “need answers” on the nature of the investments.