HHS nominee Dr. Tom Price's 2nd confirmation hearing: 5 things to know

Rep. Tom Price, MD, R-Ga., faced another four hours of cross-examination Tuesday, this time with the Senate finance committee.

Grilled by Democrats and lauded by Republicans, Rep. Price's second hearing comes ahead of a vote that will determine his nomination. The committee recessed and will reconvene to vote "promptly," according to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

Here are five things to know about the second hearing.

1. Questions remain about the state of the ACA replacement plan. On Jan. 14, President Donald Trump told The Washington Post he plans to unveil his ACA replacement plan as soon as Rep. Price's nomination is confirmed. When Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, asked Tuesday if this was true, Rep. Price said, "It's true that he said that, yes," prompting laughter in the room. When Sen. Brown asked if the president lied to the public about working with Rep. Price on a replacement plan, Rep. Price did confirm he has "had conversations with the President about healthcare."

2. It remains unclear how President Trump's executive order on the ACA will be interpreted if Rep. Price is confirmed. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., pressed Rep. Tom Price to commit to making sure no American is worse off once HHS interprets President Trump's executive order. Rep. Price did not offer a direct answer, but said, "What I commit to, Senator, is working with you and every single member of Congress to make certain that we have the highest quality healthcare and that every single American has access to affordable coverage." When pressed again to make this commitment, Rep. Price said, "I guarantee you that the individuals that lost coverage under the ACA, we will commit to making certain that they don't lose coverage under whatever replacement plan comes forward."

3. Rep. Price said the Medicaid program, though vital, "has significant challenges." One in three physicians who should be seeing Medicaid patients do not accept them, Rep. Price said at the hearing. He has previously advocated turning Medicaid into a block grant program, a policy supported by many Republicans including President Trump. Those who oppose turning Medicaid into a block grant program say it would threaten many enrollees' coverage, which is currently a right under the entitlement program. When asked by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., if moving to a block grant would put people's coverage at risk, Rep. Price said, "I think it would be determined by how that was set up, if in fact that is what Congress did. Again, the role of HHS is to administer the laws that you [Congress] pass."

4. Rep. Price defended his stock trades. Sen. Wyden presented information with a "paper trail" that showed Rep. Price did not disclose the full value of his shares in Innate Immunotherapeutics. Sen. Wyden alleged Rep. Price underreported the value of this stock more than twice, and Rep. Price bought 400,000 shares at a discount unavailable to the public. However, Rep. Price maintained that the only reason the committee even knew this is because he took the steps necessary to disclose his trades in an ethical way. "Everything I did was ethical, above board legal and transparent," Rep. Price said. "There isn't anything that you have divulged here that hasn't been public knowledge."

5. Republicans defended Rep. Price, suggesting his nomination was being held up by partisan politics. "I have never seen this level of partisan rancor when it comes to dealing with a President from an opposing party," Sen. Hatch said. "I have never seen a party in the Senate — from its leaders on down — publicly commit to not only opposing virtually every nomination, but to attacking and maligning virtually every single nominee." The "grossly exaggerated and distorted attacks" on Rep. Price center on his ethics, not his qualifications, Sen. Hatch added.

Watch the full hearing here.

 

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