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HHS nominee Tom Price faces scrutiny

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WASHINGTON — Tom Price, an orthopedic surgeon, a six-term Republican congressman from Georgia and a fierce critic of the Affordable Care Act, faced tough questions from Democrats about ethical issues and policy priorities during his confirmation hearing.

Tom Price_HHS secretary confirm hearing

Tom Price responds at his confirmation hearing.

But at presstime it appeared that he would be approved as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Price, who endured more than three and a half hours of questions during a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, had the support of Republicans, who have a 52-48 majority in the Senate.

But while a few of President Donald Trump’s picks also received some bipartisan support, Price was grilled by Democrats about plans to replace the ACA, and whether he and the Trump administration were planning “a war on Medicaid.” (He rejected that description.)

Democrats also accused Price of having conflicts of interest during his time in Congress, arguing that he held more than $100,000 worth of stock in companies that could have benefited from legislation he advocated. There were also questions about whether Price had understated his investments in an Australian pharmaceutical company in disclosure forms, and claimed unsubstantiated income tax deductions on his tax returns.

Price denied having any conflict of interest or other ethical issues.  “The reality is everything I did was ethical, above board, legal and transparent,” the HHS secretary nominee said.

Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, was among those signaling support for Price, saying he would move to send Price’s nomination through to the full Senate as soon as possible.

Price, who was described by Trump as “exceptionally qualified to shepherd our commitment to repeal and replace Obamacare and bring affordable and accessible health care to every American,” emphasized his support for the goal of providing health care consumers with choice, and making health care affordable and “accessible for every single American.”


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